Hey this is fun. I’m taking a break from the conference because I paid for it myself so I don’t even feel guilty. Why spend vacation time at a conference like this? Because it is pretty cool. There are lots of mental health consumer and consumer/providers with a ton of encouragement and information. Also even though I’m not sleeping much and still a little jaded, the enthusiasm is catchy and that’s the best way of going back to work when the vacation is over.
Off topic a bit. My brain opens up a little when I am relaxing. I was going up this big escalator yesterday and I looked back and felt what Alice must have experienced when she drank from the bottle that made her grow. Try it sometime. It’s really silly but if you look backwards, straight out into the air, it seems like you’re growing taller. I like being tall, so naturally taller is better. Also did you know that the spoon with the cherry on it has water spurting out of the top? It seemed a little suggestive to me but perhaps that’s just my perspective being single and all. I didn’t know that the only waterfalls on the Mississippi were here. The most fun encounters are outside the lectures, with the folks I talk to at lunch or on break. The programs are great but just knowing other people are working through the same issues is the best.
The best things I am learning are surprises. This whole conference is about public policy advocacy for people with mental health issues, best practices and getting people trained to high recovery standards in the workforce. They(we) are damned serious about it. My new focus is supported employment. Lots of people here have tons of experience in this. They are helper people so they are helping me. The people from the Veteran’s Administration and the folks from Thresholds in Illinois stick out. They have long histories of opening doors, and in changing direction to move toward a more recovery oriented model so if they can do it, we can.
Lisa Razzano, the new board president of USPRA, is a force to be reckoned with and has a sense of humor. She made me want to get on a committee! I need role models like that. After listening to her the keynote speaker the next day was a bit weak. I’m being nice, he really was not good. He was not caught up with present day practices and was preaching about more depression and anxiety these days due to food issues and lack of exercise. Why do I know so many happy people who don’t exercise and so many miserable people who do? I think he has it backwards. There have always been mood and thought disorders with us but they were considered character flaws or educational issues. If we just knew what to eat or took our meds or exercised or meditated we would be better. Sorry Doctor Emmons, many diseases start well before we are born and are sown into our systems. I agree that we can treat a cold, the flu, a heart attack and mental health issues holistically but my view is that I have to make the best out of the cards I’ve been dealt. If I have a mental health issue then I have one of the qualifications needed to be a peer provider out-of-the-way! Each person has to find their unique way of approaching just like choosing a life partner, college courses or a job. There is no way I am going to force someone to exercise or not eat something they like when it is not their preference. All the education in the word hasn’t stopped people from drinking or me from eating cookies. Hope and support for what we do want to change is where the focus should be. Recovery is how I define it. I define it by being assertive as that is something I’ve struggles with all my life moving from passivity to aggressive talk, humor and behaviors and never finding satisfaction. On this trip I had to call and ask for the refrigerator to be delivered to my room. I had to ask for the waiter to bring the bill after 15 minutes of waiting. I had to put myself out there and practice trying to market a potential employee to an organization in front of a group of people, (I made some gross errors but got part of it right.) This from a woman who would never ask a man on a date or even someone to be their friend because I knew I would not survive if I was refused. I even lost my cell phone and didn’t panic, well not much more than searching my room three times. I eventually found it under a table in one of the conference rooms. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed but I can live with that and at times overcome it. I am in recovery.
Other thoughts. The Mall of America is a great place for International visitors to discover what America is all about, at least on a corporate level. They can meet all of our mascots and buy all of our goods. It’s a distillation of enclosed consumerism and entertainment of nightmarish proportions. I enjoyed it somewhat and did buy a pair of pants. I own this as part of my culture but it’s painful to see so much of it at one time in one place. It’s felt almost how I would feel if I went to a museum about racism and oppression, a downer but still something we are very good at.
The weather is cool but sunny and EVERYONE is WALKING by Barnes and Noble. I love walking. I love people, so I’m going out to join them on a little jaunt to The Mississippi and back. If you have any tips on what else I should do in Minneapolis on the two days I have after the conference ends, let me know. I was thinking of going to The Guthrie theatre and The old mill museum, visiting Uptown and St. Paul. Good, cheap places to eat would be appreciated. Remember you have time to have a small vacation everyday! Enjoy it.