Liquid Bourbon Ball

Liquid Bourbon BallI sent the manuscript I’ve worked on for the last fifteen years to my first reader. I needed to celebrate. It’s fifteen years of hard work, perseverance, walking away when it got too emotional for me, and overcoming the times I would look at it thinking it was complete shit.

This celebration called for something more than just a glass of wine. Nope. I needed something special

Enter: Liquid Bourbon Ball.

Living in Kentucky for thirteen years, I developed a liking for bourbon. Quality bourbon. Not the cheap stuff that tastes like fire water. I like my bourbon to have a hint of sweet caramel not varnish. If you’re wondering what I would use, here you go: Basil Hayden, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, Knob Creek, and Four Roses, to name a few.

I started making Liquid Bourbon Balls with my friends at a yearly Derby party. It was a big hit. Who needs a mint julep anyway?

The key to this drink is the quality of the bourbon. No turpentine allowed.

Liquid Bourbon Ball

2 ounces bourbon

2 ounces creme de cacao

2 ounces hazelnut liqueur

caramel sauce

ice

Place 3-4 ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Pour liquids over the ice. Cover and shake well. In an old-fashioned glass, drizzle caramel around the side of the glass. Strain cocktail into the glass and enjoy.

Mental Health Day

Honolulu - Capitol Building, DebiPeople talk about taking a mental health day when what they really mean is, I’m fucking stressed out and I just need a day off. People with mental health issues, diagnosed or not, do not have this luxury. Every day is a mental health day spent trying to navigate this world the best they can with what they have, which is not much for most of them.

It’s easy for the general public to say, Oh, another school shooting…the shooter must be psychotic. And they’ll say this without a true understanding of what psychotic means or looks like. It’s easy to link school and other mass shootings to mental instability. Everyone is shouting for better gun control this week to keep guns out of the hands of psychotics. I understand why. There have been seventy-four school shootings since the Newtown, CT school shooting in 2012.

Poor gun control is to blame for “psychotics” shooting masses in public and in schools. Only in America. Because gun control here sucks.

So does mental health services and access to it. In America. AND NO ONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IT. Because maybe if we don’t talk about the pink elephant it will disappear. Forget that there is a revolving door with people going in and out of hospitals never quite getting the help they need because once they are stable (read: no longer an immediate threat to themselves or others) they are released with no follow-up, no access to follow-up services, or refuse to follow-up because they don’t think they need more services to keep them stable. Two months later, they’re back in the revolving door.

I saw this play out all too often with clients and/or their family members. I can’t tell you how many kids lost services they desperately needed because of insurance or inability to pay out-of-pocket. In the rural areas of Kentucky, services are limited because that’s what happens in rural areas. It also happens to be the poorer areas where people don’t have their own transportation and there is no public transportation to get them to their local community mental health center (CMHC).

Then there are cases like my cousin who lost insurance when he changed jobs. He loved his new job because it was less stressful, but it also didn’t provide him with the insurance he needed to keep his medication and mental health services. He went on a downward spiral because without the meds he lost a lot of rational thought. I tried to help him and point him in the direction he needed to go to access services without insurance, but he was too far gone. His was a slow decompensation that ended in him hanging himself.

While I’m on the subject of insurance. How about how private insurance will only allow a set amount of sessions per year? This is not enough for people with severe and chronic issues. Did you know that getting out-of-home-intensive services is nearly impossible with private insurance. Same with intensive-in-home services. Medicaid will only pay for services that are deemed medically necessary and only on a Wednesday if you jump through hoops set on fire with a clown and a toy dog with a pink tutu. I think they’re all pretty much medically necessary, but each level of service has a different set of parameters to determine medical necessity like the previously mentioned no longer being an immediate threat to self or others for a psychiatric hospital. Then there is the appalling lack of services for our veterans. Men and women who return from war zones with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and have no services to help them manage life with it.

So where are the services for everyone who needs them? Why are they denied access? What are we going to do about it? Because if you want to blame mass shootings on “psychotics” with guns, then we need to address the sorry state of mental health services and accessibility in America along with gun control.

For some perspective: out of the hundreds of former clients, youth and adult, I can count on one hand how many of them were involved in some kind of gun violence after I worked with them and still have fingers left.

This Caged Bird Sings

Columbus 12This is angry, bitter, raw. It deserves none of the finesse and crafting of my usual posts.

There is a great divide between men and women. Women live  life thinking about our surroundings and constantly assessing our safety. Walking at night is too risky. Passing construction sites garners catcalls. What do we have on hand other than the keys already between our fingers that is a potential weapon? There’s a man staring at me, potential attacker. What’s that sound behind eye? What just came into my peripheral vision.

There are self-defense classes just for women. Not self-defense. Self-defense FOR WOMEN. Because we are the targets and it’s not enough to take a self-defense class.

Reports of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment aren’t taken seriously by the general public. She was asking for it. Her lips said no, but her eyes said yes. Look at what she was wearing. She’s had so many sexual partners she’s just saying she was raped because she was spurned.

You can deny this happens all you want. You can be uncomfortable because men cannot keep their hands and other body parts  to themselves, groping, ripping, tearing, and invading our bodies.

YOU SHOULD BE UNCOMFORTABLE.

Women are not safe because men cannot take responsibility for themselves. They must blame us because that’s the manly thing to do.

I was sexually assaulted in college by an athlete I met in the first week of school. He found a way into a LOCKED all-female dorm after-hours. He made his way into my room, which I had left unlocked because my roommate was out of town and I had a habit of waking up to use the bathroom and locking myself out. When he left my room, I went to a neighbor’s room because I heard the TV on. He was in there with her. He didn’t see me, but she came out to talk to me. She didn’t believe me when I told her because he hadn’t touched her. Because she didn’t believe me I didn’t tell anyone for months. And because I left my room unlocked I beat myself up day after day for being so careless. Never mind the fact that he never should have been able to get inside the dorm period. No, I blamed myself because I should have known better. And it wasn’t walking around by myself at night. It was being in my room. Alone. I spent a lot of time out of my room. A lot.

Years later when the nightmares finally left me alone, I was stalked by a fellow psych major. We were in several classes together and he wound up with my number because we had group project together with other students. He called multiple times a day. I startled every time  the phone rang and started screening my calls. When one of my uncles discovered what was going on, he wanted to break my stalker’s arms and legs. While the idea was nice, it wasn’t worth it. One of my classes was easy to steer away from him because it was the big lecture room in Gartley Hall. The other class wasn’t so easy. It was a seminar class with only a handful of students and a large table we all sat around. I would purposefully arrive late to choose a seat away from him. Mind you, I told him more than once that I wasn’t interested in him and to leave me alone and he wouldn’t. It didn’t take long for the nightmares to return. This time of my assailant and my stalker working together.

It is a huge problem when you fear a stalker who drives you to keep your keys between your fingers while walking to classes in BROAD DAYLIGHT. It wasn’t a far stretch for me to wield my umbrella like a weapon in my other hand either.

These two events left scars that still run deep. The last time we were home for a visit, KFVE ran a replay of a game from those days in college and while I was excited to watch a our team decimate BYU, the announcer saying my assailants name drove me back into that time full of fear, nightmares, and distancing myself from relationships. Women cannot come out on the other side of this without those scars. They affect our relationships with everyone.  They are long-reaching scars and no one is immune to them. No one.

But that was back in college you say?

Early on in my career in mental health a client sexually assaulted me. We had a saying, if it isn’t documented it didn’t happen. This particular client was prone to making graphic sexual threats towards women, especially when we had to physically restrain him. It would have been so easy to brush off what happened the night he assaulted me. To half-ass my paperwork and gone home to sleep it off. I stayed until the wee hours of the morning DETAILING what he did. What I did. What he said. How he struggled after punching me in the face and I had him in a physical restraint. How he was grabbing for me between my legs in the struggle and I had to keep readjusting so he couldn’t. How we wound up on his bed with him on top and back to me finally able to to not just grope me, but grab a hold and squeeze. How help finally arrived and took over so I could get away from him. By the time I returned to work the next day, everyone knew what happened. Almost every single female co-worker told me, “He did that to me, too.” I couldn’t believe it. If he had done that so many women, he shouldn’t have been in our facility. I went back to his chart and sure enough, no one documented being sexually assaulted by him. Why? Fear? Embarrassment? I’ll never know. But I know my sexual assault could have been prevented if just one of the women had reported it with their documentation.

Are you still uncomfortable?

I hope so. Because this happens every day to us. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you, your sister, your daughter, your mother.

Does your discomfort make you want to yell at me and tell me I’m wrong, not all men are like that, who do I think I am spouting all this? Do you want to tell me to just shut up and deal with it? You have no right to say those things because you haven’t lived it. You have a responsibility to make change so our daughters can live in world where they live without fear of being snatched, groped, assaulted, and raped.

I won’t ever shut up.

We women have a collective story to tell. Maya Angelou, who passed away this week, taught me that every story we have to tell is valid no matter how taboo society may deem it.

This caged bird will sing loud and long until change happens.