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Can Hospitality Change the World?

 

This is one of the best TED talks I have ever seen (and I have seen a lot of TED talks!).  Kindness breeds kindness.  Hospitality breeds hospitality.  Just in case you needed to hear it- “You and I are more than the worst thing we’ve ever done or the worst thing that’s ever been done to us.”

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“Why I’m Done Being a ‘Good’ Mentally-Ill Person”

Things that came to mind while reading this:

Being allowed to take the tape dispenser into my room while hospitalized at an inpatient behavioral health unit.

Being allowed to hang things on the wall in my room in the behavioral health unit.

Being allowed to watch Harry Potter on the tv in the tv room even though a committee had voted and decided ⚯͛△⃒⃘H.P. Wasn’t appropriate for the inpatient behavioral health setting because of Dobby’s self-harm.

Being allowed to order grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese for basically every meal that wasn’t breakfast because I’m a VERY picky eater.

Never being told I couldn’t have pain medication even though I saw it denied to other patients.

Being allowed to hang out at the nurse’s station when I couldn’t sleep.

Being told at my last visit with a P.A. a few days ago that she couldn’t wait to see me on tv one day for something wonderful I will do.

Privilege is real and insidious.

Please read this article: Why I’m Done Being a “Good” Mentally-Ill Person

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Washington, D.C.

On a cold day in February, I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook when I saw an ad from Amnesty International inviting people to a lobbying day in Washington, D.C. to help support human rights worldwide.  If you don’t already know about Amnesty International, it is a nonpartisan global movement of over seven million people who, “take injustice personally.”  Through their detailed research and determined campaigning, they help fight abuses of human rights, bring torturers to justice, change oppressive laws, and free people jailed for voicing their opinions.  Knowing all of that about Amnesty International, I was eager to join.  I entered my information and received a phone call the very next day telling me that Amnesty International would pay for my flights and pay for a hotel room on Sunday night.  This was my chance to help vulnerable families without ever even leaving the country.

On Monday, February 26, 2018, 350 lobbyists took the capitol by storm and spoke to our representatives about maintaining a robust budget for humanitarian aid, refugees, and displaced persons, the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, and Human Rights Defenders worldwide who have become Prisoners of Conscience.  There were so many of us from North Carolina (50!) that we couldn’t all meet with the staffers for Senators Tillis and Burr and instead had to break into two groups of 25.  My group met with Cole, a staffer for Senator Burr.  I didn’t speak in this meeting because our group was so large and there were a lot of people who felt passionately about making their voices heard, but it was very interesting to sit in on.

A smaller group of six of us met with one of Congressman McHenry’s staffers.  The staffer we were supposed to meet with was out sick for the day, so we met with a woman named Lauren.  In this meeting, I spoke about my time in Kenya and my time in South Africa in the Peace Corps.  I spoke about how the orphanage I was a voluntourist at exploited families and recruited children in order to attract volunteers and donations, which were ultimately pocketed by the man running the orphanage.  I spoke about how women and children were treated less than favorably in my villages in South Africa.  Lauren was kind, but she wasn’t the staffer responsible for being knowledgeable about the issues we were discussing.

Even if just some of the representatives the 350 of us spoke to are determined to help with the issues we brought up, it could make a huge difference.  For example, one of the funds we lobbied on behalf of was the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) fund.  It provides funds to people displaced by natural disaster, conflict, and war.  Funding supports efforts to eradicate famine in countries including South Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia and addresses long-standing humanitarian crises that have caused significant internal displacement in other countries.

Here are the things we were asking of our representatives:

Ask #1: I request that Congressman McHenry/Senator Tillis/ Senator Burr do whatever he can to maintain robust funding for Humanitarian Assistance for Refugees and Displaced People worldwide.

The appropriations process provides a critical opportunity for Congress to support displaced persons and refugees by funding the MRA, IDA, and ERMA accounts that provide life-saving and life-sustaining humanitarian assistance worldwide.

The world hasn’t seen this level of displacement since World War II.  65.6 million people have had to flee their homes to escape persecution, torture, and violence.  Among them are about 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are children.  President Trump’s proposed budget would slash Federal funding for Humanitarian Aid by over 1/3.  We cannot allow this to happen.

When the United States stands up for the protection of vulnerable people worldwide, other nations take notice and follow suit.  When the United States retreats in cowardice away from protecting the most vulnerable people, other nations take notice and follow suit.  If we don’t maintain robust funding for Humanitarian Aid, millions will suffer even more than they already are.  It adds insult to injury when people fleeing war, violence, torture, and persecution are cared for so little by the world’s Power House.  We must show refugees, displaced persons, and the rest of the world that we care about human dignity.

Ask #2: I request that Congressman McHenry co-sponsor and commit to passing H.R. 4223, The BURMA Act of 2017, and that Senators Tillis and Burr support S. 2060 (The Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2017).

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that ethnic cleansing is still an issue faced in 2018, but for over 688,000 Rohingya people, systematic murder, rape, and mass burnings are their reality.  After the world has witnessed the atrocities of the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, Turkey, Albania, Macedonia, northern Iraq, China, Libya, Soviet Ukraine, and many others, you would think our government would know better than to stand by and watch while doing nothing

Thousands more Rohingya are displaced internally in Myanmar.  As documented by Amnesty International and other credible organizations, this crisis is a direct result of Myanmar military’s campaign of violence marked by murder, deportation and forcible displacement, torture, rape, village burnings, apartheid, and other inhumane acts like the denial of life-saving provisions.

The BURMA Act of 2017 and the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2017 would sanction Myanmar officials responsible for the persecution of the Rohingya, prohibit military to military cooperation with Myanmar’s security forces, facilitate access to a U.N. fact-finding mission to Rakhine State, call on officials in Myanmar to permit aid distribution by international humanitarian organizations, urge the Myanmar government to extend civil and political rights, including citizenship, to the Rohingya, and protect Rohingya refugees from being subjected to unsafe, involuntary, or uninformed repatriation.

Ask #3: I request that Congressman McHenry protect Human Rights Defenders Worldwide by co-sponsoring and passing the Prisoners of Conscience resolution to encourage human rights advocacy on behalf of prisoners of conscience worldwide/ I ask that Senators Burr and Tillis co-sponsor and pass the Human Rights Defender Resolution.

Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) play a key role in defending the principles of freedom, justice, and dignity.  When they are attacked, the human rights of everyone, including you, me, and Congressman McHenry, are undermined.  Over 3500 HRDs have been killed worldwide, with at least 312 HRDs murdered in 2017.  Attacks on HRDs and prisoners of conscience have a devastating impact on human rights in wider society, creating a cycle of fear and impunity, eroding the rule of law, and depriving the countries or communities of the progress toward freedom and justice that would have been achieved by the brave work of these individuals.

The Human Rights Defender Resolution provides vital public recognition and support for the important work of HRDs, supports and promotes the protection of threatened HRDs from arbitrary arrest, intimidation, defamation campaigns, judicial harassment, threats, torture, enforced disappearances, and assassination, and encourages accountability for those who are responsible for human rights violations against HRDs.

Even if you don’t have lobbying training provided to you and even if you can’t afford to travel to Washington, D.C. to talk to them in person, it’s easy to write letters to and call your representatives and senators to let them know what is important to you.  Most of them also have local offices where you could arrange a face-to-face meeting.  Contact your representatives and let them know how you feel about issues like voluntourism, orphanages, and the exploitation of families.

 

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River the Wonderdale

I realized recently that I’ve talked a lot about service dogs, service dog etiquette, and River being a service dog in general but that I’ve never actually acknowledged what specific tasks she does for me, which people may (or may not) be curious about.  Though I have Bipolar I, River’s tasks are all related to my Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Attacks.

But first, a little background.  According to the ADA,  “a service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.   Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.”  Providing comfort is not considered a task under the ADA.

“Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.”

In addition to being task trained, service dogs should also be completely potty trained, have a lot of public access practice hours logged, and have basic obedience down.  River is a full blown service dog (As opposed to a Service Dog in Training or SDiT), but she will always be in training as she will always continue to learn new things.  Although all online registries for service dogs are fraudulent and DO NOT make your dog a service dog, some states, including NC, have a voluntary registry.  Ours is through the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and River has a special tag on her collar acknowledging her status as a trained service animal.  You may hang out with me a lot and never see her task or you may hang out with me a little and see her task a lot.  It really depends on how I am doing on a given day.  Here are some of the tasks River is currently trained to do:

DPT (Deep Pressure Therapy): When I am sitting or lying down and River senses me getting anxious OR when I say “Alert” to her, she climbs up and puts the front half of her body across my lap.  It’s like having a really heavy weighted blanket for anxiety and helps to calm me down.

Grounding: When I am standing up and River either senses me getting anxious or I give her the command “ground” she lays her body across my feet to provide grounding for anxiety.

Tactile Stimulation: When I become anxious or give the command “kisses”, River licks the tops of my feet or my hands (depending on what she can reach) to provide tactile stimulation and grounding.  When I have a panic attack, River will lick my face until it stops.

Blocking: When I am in a crowded area, River will lay down in front of, next to, or behind me to keep people from getting too close.  I am in the process of teaching her to lay down behind me every time I stop walking.

She has recently shown a few behaviors that I would like to shape into tasks, but she hasn’t been formally trained to do them yet.  For example, I’ve been struggling with depression for a few months now and this week there have been a few times when I did not want to get out of bed and she licked me until I finally got up.  She also got her leash off the ground and went to the front door and waited for me to take her out on a walk.  By themselves, these behaviors are not tasks, but they could be shaped to become tasks.

If you have questions, please feel free to comment or e-mail me at catherinecottamwrites@gmail.com .

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Update

So, I wrote a whole long blog post and it somehow accidentaly got deleted.  Here are the main points:

  • I got a job!  I’m teaching ESL to Chinese students online through VIPKid.  You must have a Bachelor’s Degree or an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Development and 1 year experience with children.  They prefer that it’s in the classroom, but they’ll accept tutoring, babysitting, and the like.  If you’re interested, please let me know and I’ll give you more info!  I’d really appreciate it if you use my referral link if you decide to apply:  https://t.vipkid.com.cn/?refereeId=5980771  .  My first class was actually really rough because the kid didn’t speak any English and just kept repeating everything I said.  I have another class this Sunday though and I have faith that it will be better and that I’ll get better with each class that passes.
  • I have been doing a terrible job on my TBR pile for the summer.  I read through part-way through the fifth Outlander book then decided to re-read The Handmaid’s Tale even though I had just read it about a month ago.  It’s just so good!  I had a blog post about it, but I took it down as I am re-writing it along with my re-read.
  • I was depressed for seven months, then I started to feel better, but it was apparently TOO better because I became manic.  Now I’m rapid cycling which means one day (or for a couple days) I sleep all day, then the next day (or next couple of days) I have a ton of extra energy and want to do everything and spend all the money I don’t have.  My doctor put me on lithium, which brings the total psychiatric drug count up to 8 and the count of medications that can cause weight gain up to 6-7.  I get really sad when I look at pictures of me from when I was thinner and think about how I thought I was too fat and unattractive then.  Sad because I’ll probably never be that thin again and sad because I let someone make me feel gross and disgusting when I was beautiful.
  • Here are some upcoming things I’m excited about:
         SEPTEMBER- ED SHEERAN WITH MY DAD!!
         SEPTEMBER- Dad’s 20 mile swim
         SEPTEMBER- My cousin, Malea’s wedding!
         OCTOBER- Possible beach trip with my parents and my pup
         NOVEMBER- LADY GAGA WITH TIFFANY!!!
Adventure

Factor V Leiden and DVTs

You may recall that in 2015, I had quite an exciting week when I had a small pulmonary embolism and ended up in the hospital via a very exciting  terrifying ambulance ride.  They found a large blood clot in my left leg that day by ultrasound.  A few months later, after I got off of coumadin, I was tested for a variety of clotting disorders and they found that I have Factor V Leiden, a mutation of one of the clotting factors in the blood that increases your chance of developing clots.  You can be heterozygous (one copy of the gene) or homozygous (two copies of the gene).  Homozygous is supposed to be the more dangerous of the two.  I am heterozygous.

I went on a hike recently and my legs were killing me.  I assumed it was just because I was extremely extremely out of shape, but over the past few weeks my legs have really hurt and been swollen.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the car recently (even though I get out to walk every hour or hour and a half) and I became worried that I may have another blood clot, particularly a few nights ago when the pain was so bad that I had to take a leftover pain pill from the last time I had a clot.  I expressed this concern to my dear friend, Monica, and she urged me to go to the doctor.  Early the next morning, I sent a message to my doctor via our patient portal explaining the situation and saying that I thought I needed an ultrasound.  She replied as soon as the office opened saying that I should be there at 10:50 for an ultrasound and that I would have an appointment with her immediately after.

The ultrasound took about an hour as they did both of my legs.  River was very well behaved.  She got up once from her spot but came over to lay by me and didn’t move again until the ultrasound was over.  I expressed concern to the ultrasound technician when she hovered over a specific spot for a very long time, but she assured me she just wanted to be thorough.  After the ultrasound, I went back to the waiting room and was called in by my doctor’s nurse shortly thereafter.  She asked me some questions and left to scan in a copy of the genetic testing I had done (it tells you which medications are best for you and which to avoid) to my file.  She left a sheet of paper behind, which I am sure she didn’t mean to do.  I took a picture of it.

clots

The doctor came in and told me that the results were inconclusive for a DVT but that it was likely that I had one and that the ultrasound technician had sent my ultrasound to the radiologist with a request for a rush read on it.  My doctor wrote me prescriptions for Lovenox and Coumadin but told me to wait to get them filled until I heard for sure whether or not I had a clot.  She told me it was a different dosage of Lovenox from the last time I had a clot and that the pharmacy may not have it on hand and I may have to go to another pharmacy.

I left, much calmer than I thought I would be after seeing on a sheet of paper that I had multiple potential clots, and went straight to the pharmacy.  I figured that if they were going to need to order the Lovenox and Coumadin, it would be best if I went ahead and had them filled.  I reasoned that I could always not pick them up and tell the pharmacy I didn’t need them anymore if I didn’t have a clot.  The pharmacy didn’t have the medication but they ordered it and said it would be in the next morning.  The nurse called while I was still at the pharmacy waiting for my pain medication the doctor had given me and said they had found a clot in the low part of my right leg.  There was nothing I could do about it at the moment, so I went home and propped my legs up, as I had been told to do.

When I got home, I realized I had a lot of questions about my clot that hadn’t been answered.  Where exactly was it?  How big was it?  Did it block the vein completely or only part of the way?  I sent these questions to my doctor via the patient portal and this was her response:

Nonoccluisive clot in femoral vein on right; non occlusive clot in popliteal vein on right; occlusive clot of peroneal vein on right and non occlusive clot of left femoral vein. non occlusive means the vessel is not totally blocked that blood is getting past the clot So there are multiple clots in the right leg and “only” one in the left. It is fairly extensive! They do not comment on the old clot so I suspect it has reabsorbed. No wonder you are hurting. Try to take it easy and keep legs elevated. No strenuous activity. Don’t do much at all for the next few days.

So while the nurse told me I had one clot, I actually have FOUR clots and one of them is blocking the whole vein.  One clot would be scary.  Four is terrifying.  Until the blood thinners are in my system at the correct level, I am at risk of part of any of the clots breaking off and going to my lungs (causing a pulmonary embolism) or heart, or brain.  For the next 2-6 days I will be very anxious.  I have no doubt I’ll have at least one panic attack, which will feel like a pulmonary embolism, which will be terrifying.  I went to the pharmacy yesterday morning, picked up the Lovenox, and immediately gave myself the shot in my stomach in my car, not wanting to wait a single second more.  I give myself a shot of the Lovenox every twelve hours and I started the Coumadin last night.  My INR level will be checked on Wednesday.  That’s how they measure if there’s enough Coumadin in my system or not.

I messaged my doctor today asking for a referral to a hematologist.  She said there wasn’t really any point in going as I’ll now be on Coumadin for life and it’s not as though they can take me off of it to do any testing, but she agreed to make the referral since it would make me more comfortable.  I have questions that I want to ask the hematologist and I imagine that my parents do as well.  Plus almost everyone in my Facebook Factor V Leiden Support Group has a hematologist, so it seems like I should have one, too.

Anyways, that’s what’s going on with me!