What’s all this hype about voting?

By Hilleary Reinhardt

Not sure if you heard (totally kidding), we are in the midst of the 2020 November elections. I know most of the focus is around the Presidential Election, but there are many other local elections happening in your community that are just as important. Sometimes it can feel as if your voice does not matter (I am right there with you), but guess what, YOUR VOICE MATTERS. The more of us that vote means better representation, more community funding, and a better quality of life. Voting is more than just electing a candidate. It is about choosing  policies and people who have your best interests in mind when making decisions that will affect you, our community, our state, and our country. 

Sometimes it helps spark some excitement to hear why others vote. I asked the Chrysalis staff why they vote and why voting is important to them. Here are some of their responses:

  • I vote to thank those before us who were unable to vote and risked their lives so that we may have this opportunity. -Anonymous 
  • I vote to be a part of the solution.-Alysha 
  • I vote to be a voice for those who cannot vote due to immigration status or legal involvement. -Hilleary
  • I vote because it is my chance to choose how my tax dollars are spent. -Anonymous
  • I vote because it matters and as a way of participating as a citizen of my country. -Kathy
  • I vote because I have hope that policies can change to support the needs of the community. I vote because your life, your family’s lives, and our collective future depends on it and I believe that change is possible. -Julia
  • I vote to share my voice and be part of the change. I see a lot of big issues within our current systems and throughout our Country. I also see a lot of important civil liberties that are in place that I want to remain in place. Voting is one way to advocate for my values and share my concerns. -Dani 

This year we will cast our votes absentee, in person early, or in person on November 3. However you choose to cast your vote, thank you for practicing your right to vote in a way that is safe for you to do so. If you are still unsure if you are going to vote in this upcoming election, I encourage you to take into consideration the importance of your vote and make a plan to vote in a way that is safe for you. You can find additional information on how to register, where to vote and what your ballot will look like at myvote.wi.gov.

However you vote and for whoever/whatever you vote, please vote. 

Stumbling Through This Messy Time Together

By Hilleary Reinhardt

Does anyone else feel like the last few weeks have been the toughest weeks of the past 6 months? I definitely feel that way. We are in the middle of some really difficult times and I am unmotivated, can’t seem to get into a routine, my brain is at capacity, I feel as if I have nothing to look forward to, and most days I am just trying to make it through each minute of each day. With the combination of the coronavirus pandemic on our day to day lives and the systemic racism against Black people in the United States, things just don’t feel great.

If some of this sounds true for you, you are not alone. Many people report having similar occurrences and emotions–most likely because of the seemingly never-ending timeline of the coronavirus and systemic racism for BIPOC living in the United States. In fact social worker, researcher, and professor, Brene Brown, has a term for this point in time. She calls it “Day Two, it’s the messy middle and the point of no return”. In a recent podcast released by Brene, she dives into this idea of “Day Two” and how while this time can be extremely painful, raw, and foggy, it can also be a time where growth and learning occur most of the time with the support of your community. 

Brene and I want you to know that it is okay to be in this place of the sucky, deep, vulnerable agony where you may be facing challenges and strong emotions. It is actually healthy and it is time we start normalizing these feelings and the effects they have on our overall mental health. It is also time to start stumbling through this messy time together and not taking on these major worldly trauma’s on our own. I am here, Chrysalis is here, your chosen families are here, and your pets are here to walk through and learn with you in this messy time.

Gardening in the midst of a pandemic

By Alysha Clark

I come from a family of gardeners but when I thought about gardening myself, I never thought I was capable of the patience and consistency a garden needs.  My confidence around gardening was close to non-existent but this Spring, I decided to challenge myself. 

Before the pandemic I wondered about a garden.  I love having fresh vegetables and fruit around the house but going to the grocery store so frequently was inconvenient.  So, I asked my partner about building a raised garden bed.  Soon enough, it was built along with some seeds planted.  My goal was to have one vegetable that was edible.  

I am happy to report  that so far I have had over 100 cherry tomatoes and 3 cucumbers!  

Reflecting on my garden season, I have seen my confidence grow along with the vegetables.  I did not expect to have a spiritual experience while gardening.  Everyday gardening was an opportunity to pause, to take care of something outside of myself and see the beauty of nature.  I needed this more than I realized during a global pandemic, where I was experiencing so much uncertainty and learning how to navigate a very virtual world.  

Gardening also gave me an opportunity to connect with people.  I was able to talk to friends, colleges, family, and acquaintances about how to garden, what is growing and how the weather is affecting the garden.  It was a great moment when my Dad put a sticker on my car that said “Proud to be a farmer.”  Now- I realize I am no way a farmer but that sticker helped me feel connected to a community and helped me feel connected to something bigger than myself. 

I read this quote “Never underestimate the healing power of a quiet moment in the garden” and I really feel like this quote describes my experience of having my first garden.  Gardening has opened my eyes to new ways of healing and has allowed me to focus on my recovery in a new, fun way.

Tips for Mood Swings

By Candace Berger

Ask yourself this question of what you want to do to calm your mind while having a mood swing?

Acknowledge that you are having a mood swing, then figure out what the triggers are, so that you can find ways to calm them down. A trigger would be like the tone of someones voice or something that you experience during the day like a stressor at work. These are the things that could set you off.

-Go out and meet your neighbors. Your neighbors may be going through similar things and could use someone to talk to about mood swings. 

-Bring a note pad and pen to write down how you feel when you are on the go. 

-Take a small break from work. 

-Listen to your heart. If you can’t do that, then do some deep breathing to help you to listen to it.

-Find a doctor or counselor and then talk to them about your triggers. They may have coping skills to help you out. 

-Walk around the room or outside to calm the nerves. 

-Get enough sleep to help calm your mind. Melatonin may help you with your sleep, but contact your doctor to see if it is a right fit for you and how much to take.

I hope these tips help you with your mood swings and bring a more wonderful time in your life.

“If you are experiencing a crisis or feeling like you want to harm or commit suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 open 24/7.” – NAMI

Mutuality in Peer Support

By Candace Berger and Jessica Perez

Peer Support encompasses a range of activities and interactions between people who share similar experiences of being diagnosed with mental health conditions, substance use disorders or both. This mutuality, often called, “peerness” between a peer support worker and person in or seeking recovery promotes connection and inspires hope. -SAMHSA

My name is Jessica Perez and I have had the wonderful opportunity to work alongside Candace as her peer support for about a year and a half. Together Candace and I wanted to co-write this blog to express the mutuality we have established in our peer relationship. Candace and I were able to grow and learn together last year as it was both our first year participating in the social enterprise, Chrysalis Pops.

There is a saying in peer support, “Nothing about us without us.” Candace and I truly lived this expression while working in the garden for Chrysalis Pops as we planted, weeded, harvested and composted all while building a rapport together. We were able to share an experience of seeing the garden grow and flourish as we grew and flourished in our recovery.        We also want to share about what we did outside of the garden that positively impacted our recovery. Candace introduced me to The Arboretum and the peace and serenity that comes along with being in nature. We also practiced using recovery tools together such as : essential oils, grounding techniques, coloring, writing in a gratitude journal and presently co-writing this blog. We were able to achieve all this together because right from the beginning we created a safe space knowing that we can come as we are with no judgement, no expectations and having it be truly person centered.

When Candace and I were writing this blog I asked her what peer support means to her. Candace openly and honestly stated, “I grew with Jessica in my recovery and the mutuality we shared helped me become more confident, more sociable and assisted in my mental wellness. Upon hearing this I thanked Candace and shared that being her peer support has helped me learn and grow immensely and the fact that we did all this mutually is the essence of peer support. 

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,