I’m not going to copy and paste everything I wrote here because I think it’s important for you to see the rest of Stahili’s website and have the opportunity to donate, but if you would so kindly please visit to read a post I wrote about the pitfalls of voluntourism.


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.




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 .



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:  .  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- Dad’s 20 mile swim
         SEPTEMBER- My cousin, Malea’s wedding!
         OCTOBER- Possible beach trip with my parents and my pup

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.


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!


TBR for the Summer/Fall

My To Be Read Pile is growing quickly, but I wanted to share some of the books I’m hopeful I will read this summer and fall.  If I read them, I’ll try to write reviews about them so you know what I think about them (with the exception of the HP books probably, because if you know me at all, you know I love them).  If you want any of these books, I suggest purchasing from instead of regular Amazon.  You still get Prime benefits if you have Prime, but a portion of the proceeds of your sale goes to a charity, I suggest Together Rising in Falls Church, VA.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I try to re-read the entire Harry Potter Series every year, but I’ve been struggling with my mental health so much that I didn’t finish it last year and I’ve barely started it this year.  Pottermore is starting a book club to re-read each book and Mugglenet offers a chapter by chapter podcast that I’m interested in, so I’m hoping to do this re-read in a very interactive way.

A Study in Charlotte and The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte.jpeg
The Last of August

I read and LOVED the first book in this series, but by the time The Last of August came out, I was in the grips of a terrible depression and couldn’t focus enough to re-read A Study in Charlotte and read The Last of August.  It had been a while since I read the first book, so I wanted to re-read it before I read the second one.

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn
This is one of those books that just keeps popping up on GoodReads as one of the best YA books coming out this year, so I feel obligated to read it.  I’ve got it on my Nook and it may be one of the books I work on at the beach.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic
I still haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love, but Big Magic just kept popping up in interviews I was watching with Glennon Doyle Melton and Brené Brown and I ADORE those two.  Plus, I love the idea of creative living beyond fear and I thought it may help me with my quest to write my own memoir.

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

You Are a Badass
This book has kept popping up in my life and I’m really working on learning how to love myself right now, so I thought this might help provide the inspiration I need.

Almost Adulting by Arden Rose

Almost Adulting
Do you see a theme here?  I really wish I could get my life together and maybe reading enough humorous self-help books will help me accomplish that in some way.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime
This one I want to read because I adore both Trevor Noah and learning about South African culture.  Even though I lived in South Africa for 5 months, there is so much more for me to learn about what Apartheid was really like from someone who actually lived through it but is closer to my age than the late great Nelson Mandela’s (I read Long Walk to Freedom, it was indeed long and parts of it were hard to get through).

Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman

Challenger Deep
I want to read Challenger Deep because it is based on the author’s son’s struggle with schizophrenia and I am pretty much always down to read a story that is based on mental health and raising mental health awareness.

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

This book I want to read because I want to know what happens in season 3 of Outlander before I actually watch it.  I’ve read the first book and part of the second, but I had trouble finishing it as I was in the psych ward at the time.  I put it down and never picked it back up.

That’s what’s in my TBR Pile/ on my TBR list.  Let me know in the comments what’s in/on yours!!


The Intervention Letter

Tonight, I’ve been looking through my journal and blog entries that I’ve put together for my memoir and I came across this assignment that we did while I was in the Park Ridge Intensive Outpatient Program.  I had forgotten all about it, which is a shame because the whole point of it was to change my daily thinking.  I’m feeling a little nervous and raw about sharing it, but I feel like it’s important and I know I’m not the only person who feels this way, so to anyone else who feels this way, I just want to say- you are not alone.

June 21, 2016

The Intervention Letter (Assignment from Park Ridge IOP)

“The script each person reads during a family intervention is called the intervention letter.  We are going to be writing an intervention letter to ourselves regarding our negative core beliefs.

Ideally, you want your letter to:

  1. Communicate genuine love and compassion for yourself, and to convey that you only want to see yourself get better
  2. Help yourself realize the severity of the impact of the core belief on daily life
  3. Help yourself to understand that your belief and its daily self-talk manifestations and behavioral impact cause hurt and pain
  4. Clearly express commitment to accept change through challenging negative core beliefs and living as if you believed new balanced beliefs about yourself/others/world
  5. Clearly express the consequences of not adjusting beliefs and living with old patterns of negative thinking”


Dear Catherine,

I want you to know that I really love and care about you.  You are a kind, compassionate, loving, and giving person.  I admire your bravery.  For example, you’ve traveled the world and you chose to join the Peace Corps.  I admire how much you care about other people, as evidenced by your volunteer trip to the orphanage in Kenya, you joining the Peace Corps, you getting your M.A.Ed. in School Counseling, and the empathy you show by hurting and loving so deeply when others are hurt.  I admire the strength it took to admit that you need help and to check yourself into the hospital.  I admire your conviction and the commitment you’ve made to wellness in spite of your bipolar disorder.  I want nothing more than to see you live a full, normal, and successful life.  I know you have what it takes to do that and have the power within yourself.

Catherine, I can see that your negative core belief that you are “not enough” has negatively impacted your life.  You have avoided taking risks romantically and, over the past three years, you have spent most of your free time in your room on your bed alone except for the company of River.  You have avoided spending time with friends because of your “not enough” core belief and it has had a negative effect on your wellness in terms of the progression of your recovery with bipolar disorder.  You have, throughout your life, made incredibly questionable choices about the men you have dated because you didn’t think you deserved any better due to your belief of not being skinny, pretty, funny, smart, successful, and competent enough.  You have dated men who disrespected you, cheated on you, or were even emotionally abusive to you and who didn’t respect what you wanted and didn’t respect your body.  All this was because of your core belief that you are “not enough.”

Your belief that you are “not enough” affects your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in ways that are hurtful and painful.  Your daily self-talk of “I’m not pretty enough.  I’m not skinny enough.  I’m not smart enough.  I’m not successful enough.  I’m not independent enough.  I’m not ___________ enough.  I’m not enough.” is emotional abuse.  When you think something enough times, you start to believe it.  It also affects your behaviors, some of which I already wrote about.  You would never speak to someone else you care about in this way and you shouldn’t ever let someone you care about speak to you in this way either, not even yourself.  This obsessive and ruminating self-talk is harmful and abusive and it’s hard to understand why you would allow it to continue.  Since it has caused you to stay in your room so much, your negative core belief has affected your friendships.  Your friends are patient and understanding, but they aren’t saints and it was unfair for you to expect them to wait this long to hang out with you regularly again.

Catherine, I’m asking you to accept change.  Every time you think your core belief, I’m asking that you change it to I am enough.  I ask that you remind yourself that you are enough each and every day.  I challenge you to live as though you believe you are enough, even if you don’t always feel that way.  This may look like being more confident when stable or depressed and it may look like imposing the 24-hour rule on things that are big choices when you are manic, because you are so much better than some of the impulsive choices you have made.

One major consequence of not adjusting your core belief and of living with old patterns of negative thinking is that if your thought pattern remains the same, your feelings and behaviors are unlikely to change.  You will continue to put yourself down and may make more decisions based on the false idea that you are not good enough and therefore do not deserve any better.  It is imperative that you start making changes in the way you think and replace “I’m not enough” with “I am enough” in your thinking.

Love Always,