My Wall-E-esque Life: Part 1

“Fat Acceptance” has been a catch-phrase for at least 40 of the years I have been alive. In 2 parts, I share my experiences and lessons learnt being a part of the…

Fat Acceptance Movement.

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I’ve been fat ever since I got my tonsils out when I was 7-years old.

Fat kid, teen, adult and now a “mature” adult.

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Trials (and Errors)

I’ve done dozens of diets, been prescribed Black Beauties & other speed (starting at age 8), belonged to many gyms, taken Phen-Fen (with success, but with heart valve damage), tried Topamax (fail), used Wellbutrin (fail), had a Roux en Y Gastric Bypass (with fabulous success, then epic failure), done hypnosis & acupuncture (fail & fail), become a daily Mindfulness Meditation fanatic (fail for weight loss/huge win for pain relief), have tried to have anorexia, then bulimia, hand-written hundreds of thousands of journal pages, letting them “hold” my pain, shame, revulsion, self-hate, wishes, fears, hopes &, eventually, resolution with my size.

I remain in resolution.

I will never diet or take diet drugs again. Ever.

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Time & Money

Thinking about the masses of time and money I’ve spent trying to lose weight makes my head spin.

Time

  • Going to the gym
  • Writing out menus
  • Researching rules and techniques for success
  • Real life or online support group meetings, including social networks talking about losing/gaining weight
  • Shopping slower to read labels and make sure food is “appropriate”
  • Learning new cooking methods
  • Fighting with family about the change in foods in the fridge and cupboards
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artist: Sapphire4723

Money

  • Gym membership
  • New cookbooks
  • Membership fees & apps
  • Tools for success (exercise equipment, pedometer, walking/running shoes, gym clothes, etc.)
  • Tossing all the “bad” food in the garbage
  • Buying all the “good” food
  • Probably eventually buying more “bad” food for my family because they whined so much about foisting my diet on them
  • $28,000 cash for RNY gastric bypass (GB)

Can I include the time and money (including the taxpayer’s) for the years of therapy discussing and crying about all of this?

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Positive?

I was a Fat Activist in the mid-late 80’s, mostly in the lesbian community. I’ve written about being fat-positive for almost 3 decades.

In the beginning, when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, I was healthy… labs were fine, no diabetes, my joints or feet didn’t hurt. I crowed (bragged, was arrogant) about how it was the fat-hating that made fat people sick and die, not the fat itself.

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Reality

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Now, at 56-years old, I see how delusional I was. I am well on the road to dying before most people in my family did, and they all had diabetes, too. My future resides in my memories of my Cuban relatives & the diabetes complications they endured before dying. Heart attacks, going blind, having toes, then feet cut off, eventually dying in a coma because the body just gave up.

I see it coming as if it was a roaring train heading right for me.

Litany of Pain

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Here are my fat-related illnesses and issues:

  • Type 2 Diabetes (diagnosed at 34 years old), now on 2 insulins and metformin
  • I heal terribly because of the diabetes, often needing antibiotics for residual infections
  • Stage 3 Kidney Disease from the diabetes
  • Pain with every step I take
  • Osteoporosis and arthritis in my feet, which have broken 3 times just from walking for exercise, and one foot breaking while swimming
  • Broke one foot falling off the Wii Fit Board trying to exercise… needed 3 surgeries to repair
  • Arthritis in my lower back, was on opioids for 8+ years for the back pain, becoming incredibly addicted, finally getting clean 3 years ago (yay me!) Now I use Mindfulness Meditation for pain relief, though many times I wish for some Norco.
  • It took me years to find surgeons I felt safe with to get my 4 hernias repaired (one surgery) and then my gallbladder out (a separate surgery, with 3 hospital visits afterwards because of infection)… several turning me away because of my enormous belly size (blessedly, I found the docs and those issues are resolved)
  • Bone loss from possibly 2 main sources: lack of exercise & the GB
  • Walking with a walker, but should be in an electric wheelchair, my feet hurting so badly
  • Using an electric wheelchair when I shop

Nautilus

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My world has gradually become smaller and smaller. After 32 years in birth work (where I hurt daily as well), I am now a sedentary Phone Sex Operator. I live in a small space and leave the house only for doctor appointments, physical therapy, shopping and seeing my doggies at mom’s house.

Writing that makes me sad.

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Part 2 On Its Way

In Part 2 of My Wall-E-esque Life, I will talk about the place the Fat Advocacy Movement does have in our lives. While it might not be health (despite the incessant refrain that it does), it is most assuredly have an enormous place in our physical and emotional world.

More soon!

A Side Effect of Goodbye

I wrote my Goodbye post for my Navelgazing Midwife Facebook followers and received something that I couldn’t have predicted: love.

I Am Loved

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Thanks

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The kind words of thanks and appreciation for my writings over the last decade+ made my heart so full.

“A million times thank you. Without your influence I would never have become my own navel gazer.”

“Barb, I understand closing this door in your life and moving on but just know your words have had a great positive impact and you will be missed.”

“I have always been awed and so inspired by your ability to open up and share so boldly who you are.”

Births

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But the comments from women about their births… my heart melted with those.

“so sorry to see you go! i found you during my surrogacy pregnancy, and you were a huge factor in my choice to birth med. free.”

“While pregnant with my first son I couldn’t get enough of your blog – it is what ultimately allowed me to find my voice and speak up that I wasn’t liking the care I was receiving from my OBGYN. I chose to leave that practice and seek out a midwife. Best decision I’ve ever made.”

“I love you Barb. You patiently waited for me to find my strength to say what really caused my baby to die. You held my hand and my heart as it took me years to realize how my daughter really died. You didn’t shame or blame or deflect from the truth.” This mom went on to become an NICU nurse instead of home birth midwife after her baby died due to the negligence of a home birth midwife.

Caring for Women
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photo by Barb Herrera

And then there were the women who shared their personal paths from doula to nurse or certified nurse midwife. Stunning.

“I have followed you for so long, yours was the first blog I found and fell in love with when I realized that I NEEDED birth in my life! I’ve since gone to nursing school and become a l&d nurse, chairing our NCB Committee, and trying so hard to help women be respected and truly cared for during their experiences.”

“You have been such a wealth of knowledge for me as I completed my journey from doula to labor nurse to nurse midwife.”

“I was accepted back into nursing school today – 4 semesters stand between me and a BSN. L&D is the goal and upon graduation, my MSN to become a CNM. Thanks Barb, I owe a lot of my drive and self discovery to you.”

Thoughts

I am incredibly humbled by the comments I received on that Goodbye post. That I had an affect on so many is so amazing to me. As I write this, I am wiping tears of gratitude for all the blessings I’ve had as the Navelgazing Midwife. As is usual, the love and indebtedness people have for each other is symbiotic, flowing back and forth… a Möbius strip of love.

Thank you to all.

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What Is “45”?

“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.

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Immigrant Birthing in El Paso

I wrote about my introduction to working with immigrants in ICE Burns: My Early Doula Clients. In 1990-1991, I volunteered as a doula at a Planned Parenthood Prenatal Program in San Diego, California.

El Paso, Texas

When I moved back to Orlando in 1993, I stopped for 3 months at Casa de Nacimiento, a birth center (now closed) in El Paso, Texas. 99.9% of the clients coming through Casa were immigrant women from Mexico, usually Ciudad Juárez. My Spanish, school-acquired, then practiced with the doula clients in San Diego, became second-nature in El Paso.

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While Casa gave me an amazing education and taught me many skills, there are lingering worries about being a White person using the immigrant women as practice specimens… a reverse voluntourism experience. I will write about these feelings separately; they are deep and complicated.

I was not as woke about the White Savior Complex as I am now, so merely tried to be the best student midwife I could be. I loved these women and their families. I loved talking to them, learning about their Mexican lives (which were slightly different than the Mexicans’ experiences in San Diego). I purposefully kept my heart open, wanting to be a positive birth worker for the women coming and going through the center’s doors. Those 3 months in El Paso remain some of my most wondrous life memories. While most people despise the city, I found it alive with culture and magic.

Rio Grande

Getting from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso for prenatal appointments was often a hit or miss experience for the birth center’s clients depending on which officer was patrolling the border bridge that day.

It had not been easy: The visa that allowed her to cross back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. is expensive, and she had had to prove she had money in the bank and a reason to return to Mexico to be granted it. The lines at the border between Juarez and El Paso can take hours, and border agents are said to sometimes tear up the visas of women who are noticeably pregnant. Some women end up giving birth on the bridge between Juarez and El Paso because of delays….”

When the border was closed to even those with visas, the pregnant and laboring women, with their families, trudged through the Rio Grande River… day and night… to cross into the United States. They often walked miles to reach the birth center.

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Crossing the Rio Grande was bad enough, but the water was/is disgustingly polluted. American maquiladoras rose on Mexican soil years ago as a way to bypass manufacturing regulations implemented in the United States. With so little oversight, the maquiladoras also freely dump their waste, including poisonous chemicals, directly into the river… the same one laboring women were walking through. On several occasions, we would give a river-soaked woman a shower before she felt clean enough to have her midwifery appointment or birth her baby.

I remember one visit down to the edge of the river to help a nursing mom up the slope, the surface of the water had an oil (or gasoline) slick on it as well as scum like this:

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All because Border Patrol would feel holier-than-thou and not let people over the bridge even with valid visas.

Disgusting.

Borders

I’ve not been to El Paso or Ciudad Juárez since 2002, but the border topic, with #45 in power, has a new focus.

Just this week, on February 22, 2017, the Washington Post wrote “Anxiety over Trump stems flood of Mexican shoppers to El Paso,” ending the piece with:

A U.S. border agent checking documents remarked at the lack of cars.

“People are scared,” he said, as he took this reporter’s and a photographer’s passports.

Of what?

“Of our president,” he said, before sending us on our way.

Yes, those of us who have a positive history with immigrants in border towns are, most assuredly, very, very scared.

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Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Washington Post

 

 

Pick a Cause, Any Cause

(For some amazingly strange reason, this post cannot be formatted correctly, no matter if I work in WYSIWYG or HTML; I have tried for 2 days to fix it, to no avail. I apologize for the bizarre lack of paragraph breaks/doubling of paragraph breaks.)

I have a theory (that has surely already been discussed in other places) that the new administration has an entire strategy to create as much turmoil as possible, knowing there would be protests (because the Women’s March on Washington was planned well in advance of the Inauguration), then seeing even more protests with each Executive Order, their idea took on greater and greater maniacal glee.

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artist, Darwin Leon, Chaos After The News

Piling On of Causes

Suddenly, there are causes to the left, causes to the right, causes above, below, front and center. People are flooding into the streets to protest the lack of women’s rights, Muslims being banned from our borders and white supremecists wanting to speak at colleges.

There are even more protests, not pounding the pavement, but striking the keyboard or dialing the phone. Some, like the scientists, have found even more creative ways of protesting bans, denials and dissolutions. And others are crazed by the potential nominees for various posts in the administration or losing their Obamacare, incessantly calling & emailing their representatives to voice their opinions.

 Folks who have never protested a thing in their lives are making signs and finding their way to join hoards of others who have also never found themselves in a mass of protesters.
An aside: In a piece about an ACT UP workshop, this really important point was made:
You learn activism by doing it, they said. One of the main obstacles to activism is the idea that you have to be an expert to do it —

Spinning Plates

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artist, Jessica Joy – Finding Peace Amongst the Chaos

Because there are so many causes to fight, it can be challenging to protest everything one feels strongly about. Surely, the administration is having a field day cheering that fact.

I see people in my own life swirling around, grasping at causes willy-nilly, protesting 1 one day and another, 2 days later. This frenetic energy cannot possibly be maintained. Speaking up, living in crisis mode, changing one’s life patterns, even for a short time can exhaust someone, causing Outrage Fatigue.

Madison Wilburs says it perfectly in “On Outrage Fatigue“:

Every morning, we wake up to a fresh Trumpian outrage, as the orange one’s fat little thumbs have tapped out the latest vitriol via Twitter before we lift our weary heads off of the keyboards we fell asleep on because we were up past midnight planning how to block his Cabinet, or save ACA, or get to Burr and Tillis, or, respond to Russian hacking. Is it any wonder that some of us are experiencing outrage fatigue?

As the Day of His Ascendence (formerly known as Inauguration Day) approaches, the more the sense of impending doom and inevitability grows. After the election, outrage and disbelief propelled many into passionate, but ultimately quixotic pursuits. Flipping the electors. The Jill Stein recount. As those prospects faded away, and the names and hideous bios of Trump’s Cabinet appointees came out, many geared up to protest and block that odious pack of cronies, capitalists, and cranks from running the country. Lists of committees were drawn up, scripts written, action plans mobilized. The GOP then ganged up on ACA, as Trump fanned the flames. No, no, protest that! many online cried. Russian allegations exploded; Trump kept tweeting. Crooked media! Overrated Streep! All-talk John Lewis!

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Outrage Fatigue

As sure as I am sitting here, the White House and even much of Congress are devising ways to wreak havoc on America and betting “libtards” will be out en masse protesting within a couple of hours. They are counting on it. So far, we are not disappointing them.
But with the passage of time, people become numb and mute, collapsing with exhaustion, creating  an open, wide and clear, path for the “president’s” coup to complete itself. (And I do believe we are in the middle of a coup!)
Long-time protesters each speak about outrage fatigue, previously called burnout, in their stories. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) movement and even the LGBT(QAI+) (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intersex, etc.) all find themselves teaching younger generations how to avoid the outrage fatigue that comes with long battles, ones we are surely just beginning with this “president.”
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What I Can Do!

I have Bipolar Disorder and struggle with depression and must be hyper-vigilant to not become overwhelmed with sadness and pain, something that’s been quite a challenge the last 6 months or so, increasing each day. I’m also physically disabled, unable to go out into the streets to protest.

But I can write.

Since the Inauguration, I have been sitting back and pondering… considering what cause resonated most with me, which one I would be most effective battling.

What bubbled to the top was Censorship.
As a writer/blogger, I’ve been censored several times, from Blogger slamming my blog shut for having nude women (giving birth and breastfeeding!) to my midwifery licensing organization strong-arming me to “edit” one of the most important blog posts I’ve ever written. (I did and deleted the original, something that still brings tears 9 years later.)
Government censorship has always made me crazy, but it’s been over there… you know, in other countries.
Until this “president” brought it front and center in the United States.
I could enumerate so many examples, but the loudest and most obnoxious recently came from “president steve bannon” when, on January 26, 2017, in the New York Times, he said:
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while….”
You can imagine the response.
From shock to hysterical laughter, CNN’s Jake Tapper gave the best answer of all; an emphatic, “NO.”

My Strategy to Avoid Outrage Fatigue

I have chosen to focus on that one strength of mine… writing… and the topic that most resonates… Censorship.

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This way, I will be able to pace myself. During the couple of weeks with this new strategy, I’m finding myself able to see-and-toss the non-censorship posts, news pieces and videos, but am seeing, quickly and clearly, the pieces that relate to me specifically. This prevents news overload, which pulls me down towards depression. It is, sometimes, challenging to ignore the information on the periphery, but as I do, I find myself more and more at peace.
By focusing on my life-long writing skills as my major protesting mechanism, I am able to keep my interest level high and will have long-term focus on the censorship issue.

Many Hands…

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Guan Yin (觀世音菩薩), the Chinese Bodhisattva/Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Kindness. I have “known” Guan Yin for about 3 decades working in birth, she is the Goddess who overlooks childbirth. When I remembered her “thousand arms” (in some depictions), she was the perfect representation of how I visualize the community (protestors/protectors around the USA) working to save our country’s liberties & laws… with compassion, mercy and kindness… for, and with, each other.
One last strategy is for me to connect with other writers, especially those who focus on censorship. Companionship fosters support and support can manifest in many ways including encouragement, reminders of the mission at hand and backing each other up when conflict gets nasty.
I’m hoping that as I send this out over the airwaves, it will find other like-minded people, but especially writers. I could use the support and suspect you could, too.
LET’S WRITE!

Random Musings

This & That

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  • Sitting here, I am so livid and repulsed by that orange man I swear, if he was in front of me… well, let’s leave it at spit in his face for now. To attack Representative John Lewis, on this Martin Luther King Eve, is the most heinous thing that fucking pig has done so far… and he has done a LOT of stupid, cruel and repulsive things.
  • One of the best pieces of advice about the orange man is for people to daily insult him so he is so busy using his fingers to tweet, he won’t have any to push the nuclear release button.
  • Clearly, I am not in the hospital. My gallbladder decided to chill out and a blast of IV Levaquin overnight in the hospital brought me back to normal. I feel perfectly fine. I have an appointment with the surgeon I met while there, who not only takes my insurance (huge hurdle made!), but also has experience with super-big folks. He scoffed when I told him the GI Doc told me I would never find anyone to do my surgery and said I was hardly the biggest he has worked on. My appointment is Jan 23rd.

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  • I met a nurse while in the hospital who, upon introduction, seemed a jaded veteran. Surely because I wasn’t in pain, I could be my entertaining self and each time she came in, we talked about this and that… my meds… the stupid heart monitor they make you wear the whole time now… and she mentions that she hated the monitor, too, but she thought she was having a heart attack. Without lots of detail (for privacy), she lost a loved one at Thanksgiving and was struggling with mourning after having to go back to work right away. I listened and validated her pain and difficulty trying to take care of others. I said I knew it was she who should be the one being nurtured. She fought tears, but I went and held her for a couple of minutes… giving love and healing light to her. When I was discharged, she walked me down to my car (I invited her) and she said very kind words about my being a midwife and how she could see how loving I am and how lucky my clients were. I thanked her for such kind words and then hugged her again before turning to go. If you’re reading this, please send her some love.

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  • Note: When 30 Imodium AD and 12 Lomotil a day won’t stem the diarrhea, you might want to check for gallbladder issues, especially if a fever comes with it. Pain in your upper left abdomen is optional.
  • Redoing my Advanced Directive. Always so much fun talking about pulling the plug. I do NOT NOT NOT want to EVER live in a Nursing Home. Ever. I will find a way to die before anyone tries to stuff me into one of those horrid places. No life-extending bullshit. If there is a will she/won’t she live quandary… err on the side of letting me go. I AM A DNR! Everyone got the message now?

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  • I am still crazy in love with my Net cublet. How I can feel so much emotion for someone I will never meet is baffling. But it is just there. I’ve given up trying to figure it out and just enjoy myself.
  • I am learning that my youngest, Aimee, has burst forth and begun sharing her writings. She is SUCH an incredible writer! I had no idea. Was I not paying attention?!

I think that’s good for now!

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Politics: Brokenhearted

I go a couple three days without reading even headlines. Then, like tonight, I peek at what is trending.

And now I am despondent.

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artist, Anna Giladi

Just the headlines are enough to make me want to crawl in a hole. Imagining these people in control, making rules and regulations (or undoing regulations as the case may be)… it’s terrifying.

Rape

I do not say the word “rape” lightly. I do not use it randomly. I have been raped. I know the seriousness of the word.

So when I say I am horrified seeing who is going into the Cabinet because they are going to rape the United States, I mean it with all the terror that comes with the word.

The people being appointed are going to make the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) “conflict” look like a picnic. They are going to dig deep into the land, tearing up beautiful homes, ruining National Parks… and the repercussions will be felt/known/experienced for hundreds of years after these fucking pigs are out of office and dead.

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Hopeless

I felt hopeless for a couple of hours. My chest felt like someone was sitting on it; I struggled to breathe. My blessed cub held me and talked to me as I cried about how horrible this all is.

And it hasn’t even begun yet!

I think that’s the scariest for me is if I am this upset and sad now, what am I going to be like in a year when we are in the middle of the rape, still years ahead to be attacked… every which way we try to get away, to fight our attacker, he strong-arms us and continues the assault.

Not Giving Up

I saw this photo:

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I cannot let anyone die alone.

No LGBTQIA+ youth who is outed because of new laws will not be alone. We will do everything in our power to save you from the evils of “conversion therapy”… torture.

No woman who has to have an illegal abortion because abortion has been outlawed will not be alone. Those who can will learn to do abortions safely, despite the laws, risking jail, but finding the risk is far less than a woman attempting self-abortion.

No Muslim who has to “Register” to be in this country will not register alone. Women who have their hijabs mocked or pulled off will be defended so she is able to practice her religion in this country that still allows religious freedom (so far).

No woman who is attacked… grabbed “by the pussy”… will not mourn and heal alone.

No Black man, woman or child will endure the escalating hate and murder alone.

No immigrant, here legally or “illegally,” will fight to live here alone.

No Native American will have to wrest their rightful land back from the lying White people alone.

No disabled person will be left to live or suffer alone. We will find the tools they (WE!) need for anyone who still has needs. We will not let the world become completely able-ist, forgetting/not caring for those who have challenges.

No writer, photographer or artist will be censored. We will find ways to get the words and images out to the world.

No child who is hungry and has lost their free breakfasts, lunches or dinners will starve alone. We will find food for you precious babies of ours.

And then there are the promises I cannot keep:

We will not know the impact slashing Social Security will have on our elder Americans. Will they die alone freezing and starving while those in charge have billions of dollars to spare?

What are we going to do for our mentally ill (myself included)? What if our free care is removed? What if we are not allowed our medications, therapy, our psychiatrists?

We know a only fraction of our brothers, sisters and others who have killed themselves because of their despair of who is coming into the White House. What of all the others who are misgendered, hidden, reported as dying of “natural” or “accidental” causes when they really overdosed on purpose. So many suffering without our knowing they are there.

I need to go house by house looking for those in pain. Like the Christians in Germany who saved the Jews, taking chances, risking death even… all to save even one soul.

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Reaching Out

I might cry again. No, I will cry again.

But I cannot give up. I cannot let someone die reaching out for another hand. I know mine is not the only one searching. Maybe, just maybe, if we all keep holding our arms out, joining hands, we might be able to save more than just one person.

I cannot give up.