Creativity During Covid

By Jenny King

Since being in quarantine I have been finding stress relief in making art, whether I am painting, collaging or coloring in my coloring book. One thing I continue to do is explore my creativity through a recovery lens. I am following a workbook called The Artist’s Way, it gives tools that artists can use to unblock their creativity and heal some of the barriers that exist in the process of making art. One thing I have always struggled with when making art is the inner critic, this doesn’t just exist in my head with my art but can spill over into other areas of my life. The inner critic can keep me from making art or thinking my art isn’t good enough. The inner critic takes
the joy and surprise out of creativity. My life lesson has been to paint for painting’s sake. Years ago when I was having a difficult time and not painting I heard my inner voice say “If I can paint, I can heal”. This healing art journey has been an important part of my recovery. Giving myself permission to paint and make art without perfectionism is something I’m still working on. The more I paint the more I want to paint and I have been using affirmations to redirect the inner critic. When the stress of Covid creeps in, I have a canvas I go to and I just start working on it. It’s my covid canvas, my time to tune into something that gives me hope and brings joy.

Personal Mental Health and how I overcome it

By Candace Berger

It was around 2009 that things seemed to take toll on me. My mind was hearing a yelling of I think it was a guy but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. It was so loud that I couldn’t sleep at all. I decided to visit a friend for help and he took me to the hospital. I was admitted into the psych ward at the hospital where I still heard the loud voice. Also my weight had gone down to 109lbs where I was showing bony features on my body. They encouraged me to eat so that I could get back to a healthy weight. I decided to listen to them and got my weight back up to 125lbs. But all that time I was hearing that voice. They decided to put me on an anti-psychotic, Risperedone and it made the voice calm down somewhat in loudness.

After a while I was put in a step down care center where they monitored my mental health. Throughout the past 11 years I have been in and out of care facilities and hospitals. All that time I learned about tips on coping with my mental illness and I want to share them with you. There are times where the voices get loud and I try to talk to them to see if they will stop yelling or listen. Sometimes it works. Another one is taking my medicine consistently that way it doesn’t interfere with the routine and then end up hearing voices again. This tip is writing in a journal. You can either rip up the paper or keep it for a record of how you are doing as time progresses. Sometimes listening to music can help sooth the voices and me.

Now for anxiety I have several tips for you. One is doing body scans, two is the vagus nerve exercises and three is deep breathing meditation. You can look these up on youtube. Two more that might help with voices and anxiety are taking a bath and talking to someone like a counselor, parent, friend, relative or neighbor. Well now that concludes this blog piece. Thank you for reading and I hope that these tips will help you.

Be Safe.

Different Types of Exercises That Help

By Candace Berger

There are different types of exercises that I would like to share with you that has helped me feel good and possibly help to get you feeling good. But before you do any of these exercises, be sure to ask your doctor if you can do them in your routine.

You could go for walking long distances from 0.5 miles to several miles. This gets your heart rate up and running for a while and will sure be pumping it. Try to do it at least every other day just to get that good feeling and to decrease anxiety. I use this myself to help feeling good and to decrease anxiety.

Another exercise that can be done is going up and down the stairs. Hopefully where you live you could use the stairs there to get a good workout and I do say that this will give you a serious workout.

If you are a pack rat, organize your space and this will give you a workout with bending, walking and lifting. If you have trouble with it ask someone to help you if you have a friend or relative that would be willing to help.

There is another type of exercise that would calm the nerves and make you a little stronger. It is called Tai Chi. It is very slow movements and involving deep breathing with the movements. You can do it with Youtube Tai Chi videos. Just type in Tai Chi in the search bar of Youtube and you get videos from beginners to more experienced styles.

Working on a garden outside somewhere like a community garden would help with exercise too. You could volunteer your time with a local church or a local food pantry that has a garden which would help with exercise. Just be sure to wear a mask and some gloves just so that you don’t suck in some unwanted dust or germ. There is also “Chrysalis pops” you could apply for if they have it this spring on into September.

During the Winter, you could always go to a park and walk on the sidewalks or snow shoeing in the snow at the UW Arboretum. I know it is hard during the winter to go outside because of the chilly air but it is much nicer to go out when it starts to snow or when the sun is out. Also, there is skating on ice and skiing that is always fun too.

Well I hope that these exercises will help with your mood and help you to feel calmer.

Why I don’t feel safe wearing a face mask

By Furman Avery

This was original titled “Why I don’t feel safe wearing a face mask” and I was going to write why being a person of color in this country wearing a mask could be harmful to my life.  I’m a Black man living in America. I want to be safe, but I also want to stay alive.  There are too many instances of people of color being harassed by police and other whites for having the mask on the protect themselves.

However, recent events in Minnesota, Kentucky and Georgia have made me rethink my stance. 

I had numerous examples of harassment by the police.  For example, Miami police officials are investigating the detainment of a black doctor, who was handcuffed by a patrol sergeant outside his own home as he loaded up supplies to tend to the city’s homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Armen Henderson, a doctor with the University of Miami Health System, is now concerned over his own health because the unnamed officer, who was not wearing a mask, got “all up in (his) face,” according to ABC News.

Henderson believes he was targeted by the sergeant because he is black. Miami-Dade Police Chief Jorge Colina said Saturday, the day after the confrontation, that it is being investigated by the department

Another example is the New York Police Department is facing backlash after video on social media showed officers forcing a mother to the ground and handcuffing her in front of her young child after a confrontation over how she was wearing her face mask, Newsweek reports.

In video published online, 22-year-old Kaleemah Rozier and her child are seen being escorted up the stairs from a subway platform by police. The mother is heard shouting “Don’t touch me” before seen to be slapping away the hand of an officer. Multiple officers then crowd around the mother before forcing her to the ground and handcuffing her as bystanders urge them to stop, saying: “This is unnecessary.” “She’s got a kid,” one bystander is heard saying. “That’s too much, man.”

NYPD officers escorted a young woman with her toddler (both wearing masks) up the subway platform stairs, then forced her to the ground & handcuffed her.

These examples would normally be enough to raise the hair on my neck but the senseless killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis MN, of Breanna Taylor in Louisville KY and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick GA have taken me to the next level.

Mr. Floyd was held to ground in handcuffs while a white police officer held him down with his knee in the back of Mr. Floyds neck cutting off his breathing.  Repeatedly Mr. Floyd said he couldn’t breath as other officers stood by and did nothing.  There were four officers in and around when Mr. Floyd already in handcuffs how much of a threat could he be?

In Louisville KY Breanna Taylor was shot and killed in her own home when police served a “No Knock” warrant on her home looking for drugs that were never found and for a man that police already had in custody.  Imagine you’re a single black woman in your own apartment and the police burst in yelling, shouting with guns drawn and they shoot without announcing themselves. Remember this is America where you are innocent until found guilty unless you are a person of color.

In February Ahmaud Arbery was out for a jog in a predominately white neighborhood when he is attacked and killed by a former police officer and his son. Why would you attack and murder someone jogging because of the color of their skin? 

I am of a certain age that I can remember the riots in Chicago when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.  The west and south sides were ablaze. Business burned to the ground police, state police and the nation guard were called in city was on total lock down with a dusk till dawn curfew. At the time I couldn’t understand why business in our community were being set on fire.

Then you have Ferguson MO 2014 when Mike Brown was murdered and the “Black Lives Matter” movement was started. Once again, our own community went up in smoke and fire.  If you’re white you most likely look at this and say why do they burn their own communities?  I will answer that for you shortly.

In response to the incident in Ferguson President Obama created some reforms that were to hold police departments accountable.  However, when Trump was elected one of the first things he did was have his then Attorney General Jeff Sessions begin to dismantle the policy.

Why is it that police think they can mistreat anyone of color as if we were still slaves and have to do what the master says?  For too long people of color have been shortchanged, pushed aside as if we don’t have rights.  Oh by the way keep in mind blacks couldn’t even vote in this country until the Voting Rights Bill was passed by a white president an majority white government. 

This country was founded on the backs of people of color from 1619 when the first slaves arrived on the shores of the so-called new world.  We were never viewed as full human beings and in some peoples minds we still aren’t.

In the back of every black’s mind when he leaves his home is the worry over being stopped and questioned, or even attacked is always there. That fear has long persisted in minority communities, brought on by the history of institutionalized racism and brought to the surface after any highly publicized act of violence like Arbery’s shooting, said Anna Lee, psychology professor at North Carolina A&T.

“For many black people, this is an everyday tension. Being followed around in a store. There is always this feeling or anxiousness around other people perceiving us as a threat,” Lee said. “So with the face mask covering, especially, I think, for black men, the mask, not being able to see someone’s complete face, may make them seem or appear to others as threatening in some way.”

One question whites are asking “Why do they set fires in their own communities?” The flippant response would be “What do you think would happen if a thousand angry fed up people of color started marching and protesting toward a white community and with the intent of starting fires?  There would be a thousand dead people of color. Justice would be swift and deadly.  Think of how this country has reacted to other things in association to race.  As long as drug were in the black community killing it was ok, but soon as white youth started dying there was a call to action, this country has a huge drug problem and it must be stopped.

This also leads to another issue that is that the criminal-justice system is racially biased, or should I say “systemic racism.” When you consider that much of the criminal-justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives included, will concede was rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive. The modern criminal-justice system helped preserve racial order — it kept black people in their place. For much of the early 20th century, in some parts of the country, that was its primary function.

That anger and rage has been pent up in people of color for so long that when another unjust police murder happens it boils over into the streets and cities are like powder kegs, add in the high rate of unemployment of minorities, let alone how this pandemic is much more prevalent in minorities communities it doesn’t take must to light the fire (excuse the pun).

You may be asking do I condone and agree with the riots and unrest.  I don’t condone the destruction of anyone’s property, but I do understand and feel the anger, how many more people of color must die at the hands of police for something to be done. What of the institutionalized racism that is rampant in this country, the people with power don’t want to give that power up let alone share it with people of color who they deem unworthy.  We had a black President and look at the racism he faced, being called a liar during a State of the Union address.  Being faced with a group of congress men saying they would be against any legislation he put forward. Do I really need to add the harassment he faced from the current occupant of the White House about his birth certificate and whether he is a citizen or not?

I was relieved when I heard the four police officers were fired for killing Mr. Floyd, however the officer that had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck was charged with Murder in the Third Degree I was appalled!  WHAT THE HELL IS Murder in the Third degree?  Is that saying that a black man’s life is only worth the third of a white person life?  What this tells me is they are already trying go light on this horrible man by charging him a lessor crime. I’d be willing to bet if I held someone down the way this officer did I’d be facing murder in the first charges and looking at spending the rest of my life in jail if not facing the death penalty. I hope the two in Georgie that killed Mr. Arbery, and those that killed Ms. Taylor stand for the crimes they have committed. 

In closing I want to suggest that everyone who takes the time to read this blog also take time to look up Jane Elliott and her “Blue eyes–Brown eyes” exercise.  In addition, read Tim Wise’s view of George Floyd’s murder.

Image Credit: George Floyd mural in Minneapolis by Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, Niko Alexander, and Pablo Hernandez

Chrysalis Statement on Anti-Racism

The Chrysalis community is mourning the death and suffering of so many black and brown individuals who have lost their lives at the hands of racism. We recognize that racism lies both in blatantly violent actions and in everyday encounters and policies. We acknowledge that we as a country need to do better. We say this in solidarity, and we humbly direct your attention to the voices and actions of our black community leaders. 

Black Lives Matter.

We also know that as community mental health service providers we have a role. We must name injustices and work to create a more inclusive and equitable community. We must acknowledge that we can both work within a system and work to change the system. We must truly embody co-liberation, celebrate intersectionality and recognize that the Chrysalis values of hope, healing and wellness are just as important in the racial justice movement as they are in mental health recovery. 

We will continue this work to engage in dialogue and action with the support of the Chrysalis Change Team, the Consumer Advisory Committee, and our community. We will continue to practice vulnerability, humility, and acknowledge we will make mistakes along the way. This statement is one step. Our work is ongoing. 

In Solidarity, 

Chrysalis

Chrysalis Caterpillars Stick Together

By Colleen O’Brien and Scooter Killary

Dynamic duo Scooter and Colleen here. Since us Chrysalis caterpillars have to stick together, we wanted to share a message of hope. This may be a difficult time, but we can not give up. We can stay healthy and hopeful by putting time aside for things that make us smile, give our lives meaning, and keep us active. 

Humor is very helpful during hard times. How can you add humor in your life? First, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself and silly things that happen in your day. Be on the lookout for humor in your everyday life. Second, include things in your day that make you laugh like a funny movie, show, or video. Whatever flips your switch! Third, add humor into your everyday conversations. By adding jokes to your conversations, you are spreading joy to other people.

Animals are also a way to find hope during this time. Be on the lookout for critters on your walks, drives, or even out the window. Seeing animals in the wild is a great way to focus on something other than yourself, connect with nature, and can be something to look forward to in your day.

Taking a walk outside can be a great way to see other people and critters. This change of scenery and exercise can be a great distraction and can improve your physical and mental health. 

Alright Chrysalis Caterpillars, we hope this was a reminder to find what makes you smile and do more of that.

Tips for Coping in the Pandemic

By Candace Berger

This blog is intended to help you relax and be safe. Now “The Five Senses Tips” is to help to bring you back to the present if you find yourself dissociating. These also help when you find you are worrying about things in your life. It will help distract you from worrying. Continue to do them until you feel better or you had enough.

The Five Senses goes like this:

1. Sight- what are 5 things you see?

2. Touch- what are 4 things you can touch?

3. Hearing- what are 3 things you can hear?

4. Smell- what are 2 things you can smell?

5. Taste- what is 1 thing you can taste?

Now on to the next exercise. The Deep Breathing exercise is to help you with anxiety and worry.  It is a simple breathing exercise that doesn’t take much effort. You can do this anywhere. First, you want to take in a deep breath in through your nose and count as many numbers you can go. It doesn’t have to be a lot of numbers, just some numbers. Then breath out through your mouth and count as many numbers you can go. Keep it at a slow steady pace. Be sure to stop if you are feeling dizzy. This has helped me become calmer before a job or a meeting with a peer specialist. I hope this helps you to become calmer and feeling safer.

Drawing with pens or pencils is a way to distract yourself from the stress caused by the pandemic. Draw anything that your heart desires even if you feel it is not good, just keep at it. Or you could get some drawing tutorials online on Youtube to help with forming your pictures. Here is a tutorial that might help you start out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewMksAbgdBI and you could subscribe to the page if you like the lessons. This will give you more lessons on how to draw.

Now I heard about this from my housemate about a color by number app on your phone that has me going back for more. So, I went searching for it on google play and found an app called “Happy Color”. It has many different scenes and many different colors in the picture itself. Some have 50 colors while others have about 91. It all depends on the complexity of the picture. There are hints as to where one uncolored spot might be in a light bulb at the top right spot of the screen. There will be a light bulb appearing on the left hand of the screen. If you click it, it will go to an advertisement and then when it is done and you have clicked the x on the screen, then you gain two more hints for finding color spots. I hope this app brings you countless hours of fun.

Another artistic thing you could do is paint, especially if you have the paints and canvas. You could do abstract to realism styles of painting or paint whatever comes to you. The four types of paints I know of are Watercolor, Acrylic, Oil, and Tempera paints. Again, you could use youtube to find painting tutorials that match your style. Some stores you can find these paints and canvas are Amazon, Michaels Craft Store, and Utrechtart. If you have Pinterest on your phone you can search for boards with painting tutorials. My favorites are acrylic pouring tutorials and acrylic painting of pictures. You could try those if you ever want to do some of it.

If you feel like it, you could write a short story or a novel if you are ambitious about it. Another thing you write is a song, especially if you have a desire to with your musical talents. This is another way to distract you from the doldrums of being indoors. Again, go to Youtube for tutorials on writing and grammar and writing a song.

The next thing might be something you already do but it could be used to talk about it here. Take a nice long bath with bubbles or salt. That is usually soothing to the body to help you calm down. And if you are in a place that allows scented candles, then go ahead and light them for a while you are in the bath. Also, you could listen to music while in the bath. Just be careful not to electrocute yourself if you have ear buds attached to a phone. Keep the phone at a good distance or on a chair next to the tub. You could still continue to listen to music while you get out of the tub. Then when you get out of the bath put some comfy clothing on like soft pajamas and soft slippers. This tip could be used for a nighttime ritual.

Last tip is that I encourage you to keep in contact with people either through the phone or through video chat if you have a computer or smart phone. You could also talk with the people that you live with and see how they are doing at this time. I hope these tips help you to relax and find support through the means that you have.  

Hats off to our essential workers!

By Jean Bissell

A month ago I shopped at a very large grocery store at 6 a.m. for seniors and the immunocompromised.  I put on my mask and brought  my hand sanitizer convinced there would be a small crowd as it was very early in the morning.  What I found was a full parking lot with many masked older adults lined up to get in.  The store was intensely busy with very little social distancing.  It was a scary and surreal experience walking as quickly as possible while playing dodgeball  with other carts.  After I finished shopping, I stood in a long line to check out, and was pleased that it took only 15 minutes to check out.  This experience made me appreciate and respect the front line employees who face these types of working conditions on a day to day basis.  What courage and strength it takes for them, or any other essential worker,to go to work.  Without them we couldn’t get the services we need.   For now, I order what I need online, but still take a moment to thank the human power that goes into getting the package to my door.  All I can say is bravo and I don’t know what we do without you!

Be your pandemic best.

By Hilleary Reinhardt

The first weekend we were practicing social distancing, I decided to make a list of things I wanted to accomplish during the time we would be home due to COVID19. By the end of week two, I had not accomplished one of those many tasks I told myself I would do. I felt disappointed in myself for not organizing my closet, not cooking healthy meals, not teaching myself how to make French croissants, not waking up early to work out, not putting on clothes other than my grey sweats and cozy sweatshirts, and not reading the book that has been sitting, closed on my coffee table for months. The only thing I had energy to do during those first two weeks was to make it through each day–feed myself, make sure I was getting enough sleep, and make multiple phone calls to my loved ones. 

At first I was telling myself “Hilleary, you are so lazy and unproductive. Snap out of it, some people are putting their lives on the line for this pandemic and you are just loafing around.” With the encouragement from loved ones and the support of my coworkers, I began to have a shift in thinking. Executive Director, Dani, said it in a way that resonated with me “be your pandemic best”.

Many of us have never experienced an event quite like this pandemic. We have not had to figure out how to work from home, have limited–and in many cases no–face to face interactions with friends and family, and have guidelines in place as to where we can and cannot go. This is a new experience for all of us and all we can do is “be your pandemic best”. Our goals and aspirations in life can always take more of a backseat during this time. And don’t compare your “pandemic best” to others’ “pandemic bests” because we all deal with the unknown and experience emotions in different ways. 

I tore up that list I had made that first weekend. I was no longer going to let a list dictate my worth during this pandemic. Instead, I have focused on being MY “pandemic best”. Since I have given myself this freedom, I have noticed that my stress levels have decreased and I am finding some enjoyment and peace during this time. My hope for you is that you too will be kind to yourself during this time and “be your pandemic best”.

2,346 Days Sober 24 Hours at a Time

By Jen King

Don’t isolate! This was a fair warning I heard often when I was getting sober, “stay connected, stay in the middle, go to lots of meetings!” This has worked for me to stay sober for over six years, but what happens when a pandemic comes to town and I am told to stay safer at home? What if I don’t feel safer at home because of my alcoholism, because of the isolation and disconnection that comes with it. What will distract me from the increase in alcohol ads I am seeing on social media and on tv?

Routines, I thrive when I keep to my routines, but my routines can be easily interrupted by excuses. How many times have I not gone to a meeting because I didn’t want to drive, I was tired or hungry ? There’s been times my social anxiety was so high, I drove to the meeting and I couldn’t even get out of my car and go in. More than not though my weekly routine was going to recovery meetings.

After the first week of the Covid 19 shut down I heard some local meetings were going online to the Zoom platform. I was resistant at first, probably that same social anxiety even though I was sitting alone at home during a pandemic. Once I did my first online meeting I wanted to go to more. I’m honestly able to attend more recovery meetings now. Most meetings I have Zoomed into have technical assistance and a contact person for questions. I Googled directions on how to use Zoom, and a list of recovery meetings in my area. When I go into a virtual meeting I may see some familiar smiling faces. I have the option to speak or just listen, I can leave my camera
turned off or I can be the speaker or chair person. Most importantly for me, I’m there, I’m ending isolation! I’m hearing something positive, it’s keeping with my routine, and it’s what I would want to do for my recovery regardless of my excuses.

Going to online meetings has been a way of finding myself safer at home. It’s allowed me to stay active in recovery, even during a pandemic. I’m amazed at the recovery community for picking up the Zoom meetings right away, keeping the doors open and the lights on so to speak.

Zoom meetings are available by phone or computer.
Links to Smart Recovery, AA and NA online recovery meetings in Madison,Wi:
https://www.smartrecovery.org/community/calendar.php
https://aamadisonwi.org/meetings/
http://www.badgerlandna.org/meetings/