Featured Blogger: Josh Gross

Photograph of a Jaguar in Brazil
Jaguar-Brazil2010k-4049.jpg by Dagget2. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

My featured Blogger this month is Josh Gross whose blog is The Jaguar
and its Allies.

I admire his passion for conservation and his dedication to saving the jaguar from extinction.

Josh is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for
research on jaguars in Guyana.

Q.) How long have you been blogging, Josh?

A.) I have blogged since June of 2015, so for about a year and a half.

Q.) What sparked your interest in conservation?

A.) I have always loved animals. As a child, I enjoyed looking for deer in local parks, going to the Cleveland Zoo, and learning everything I could about wild animals. I always wanted to contribute to their conservation, but figured I had the wrong skill set. So at first I settled on Psychology, specifically Mental Health Counseling. However, after carrying out some voluntary work for the Center of Biological Diversity, and after discovering Wild Safari Live, I knew what I had to do. So now, I’m trying to use my social science background to help wild animals.

Q.) Why jaguars in particular?

A.) Many reasons, with the first being where they live. Jaguars inhabit some of the most bio-diverse landscapes on Earth. In order to conserve top predators like jaguars, you have to conserve all the links of the food chain they depend on. They also perform valuable services by keeping the populations of large herbivores and smaller predators in check. By conserving jaguars, then, we can benefit entire tropical ecosystems.

Another reason I focus on jaguars is the social challenges involved in protecting them. These wide-ranging animals occasionally harm livestock, and every now and then humans. As such, it is impossible to conserve them without fostering strong relationships with local people. My training in Counseling, and Psychology more generally, makes me well suited for this task.

But most importantly, jaguars are extraordinary creatures. The more I learn about them, the more fascinating they seem. As Richard Mahler puts it in The Jaguar’s Shadow (2008), they are “miracles of evolution” that have “a right to exist.”

Q.) Why Guyana?

A.) Guyana is like nowhere else on Earth. This small, South American country is home to some of the largest tracts of unbroken rain forest in the world. This makes it a potential stronghold for threatened species like jaguars. However, reports of conflicts with jaguars are on the rise (J. Persaud, January 6, 2017, personal communication), It is therefore vital that I get in there now, in order to help address this conflict before it gets out of hand.

Photograph of a waterfall
Kaieteur Falls by David Stanley. CC BY 2.0.

Q.) Tell us a little about your campaign and research.

A.) For my thesis, I want to spend several weeks living among local communities in Guyana: learning about their beliefs regarding jaguars. Beliefs about large predators have been found to influence their acceptability (Inskip et al., 2016; Carter, Riley, & Liu, 2012; Slagle, Zajac, Bruskotter, Wilson, & Orange, 2013), making this an important topic to study. Communications with conservationists in Guyana have confirmed that it would be helpful to learn more about people’s jaguar-related beliefs. But in order to carry out this research I will need funding.

This is where my GoFundMe campaign comes in. When I was applying to Humboldt State University, all the information about my Master’s program stated that students perform their research during their second year. I assumed this meant I had a whole year to learn about conducting research, make contacts, and plan my thesis. But when classes began, my cohorts and I were strongly encouraged to do our fieldwork this summer. This gives me little time to get everything in order, while simultaneously taking on a full course load: compromising my ability to acquire grants. But I refuse to give up, and have recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for my research.

Q.) Will you blog while traveling and conducting research?

A.) I will try my best. I am going to have limited internet access while in Guyana, so I can’t make any promises. But I will take lots of notes and pictures, and will have plenty to write about when I return!

Thank you, Josh!

Photograph of Josh Gross
Josh Gross

The Jaguar and it’s Allies

The Jaguar’s Shadow

All referenced articles and images are cited here.

 

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Honor

A poem from this month’s featured blogger, thefeatheredsleep

Featured Blogger: thefeatheredsleep

This month my featured blogger Candice Louisa Daquin of thefeatheredsleep.

I’ve long admired your poetry. Thank you for agreeing to this interview,

When did you start to write?

As a child. I had a best friend who wrote and we would write poetry together. At the time, I was most influenced by the idea of giving a voice to feelings through the world around us. I liked to combine what I saw with what I felt. It was pretty childish and simplistic because I was a terrible speller, since English is my second language. I have since worked hard to become a more eloquent and careful writer and I do employ a lot of consideration rather than just writing out and posting.

Who are your poetic influences?

My favorite book of prose-poetry is by an author called Elizabeth Smart and it’s called As I Sat Down at Grand Central Station and Wept. That book has influenced my writing more than any other it is an incredible tour du force of emotional landscape and language and unlike anything I have ever read before. Second to that I am drawn to the metaphysical poets. Toni Morrison is not really a poet per say but when I read her work it reads like poetry, I think she has the most magnificent understanding of how to use language of any modern author, she is both phantasmagoric and highly realistic and that blend really stays with me. Nikki Giovanni’s candor and magnification. The erotica of Anais Nin. Maya Angelou’s truth and wisdom. The mythology of Tennyson. Audre Lorde’s history. The impenetrable landscape of William Blake. Gwendolyn Brooks raw honesty. Emily Bronte’s world and sadness. My friend introduced me to Anne Sexton about five years ago her work appeals to me more than Sylvia Plath. Of course e.e. Cummings especially his poem about little hands that was quoted in Hannah and her Sisters (Woody Allen). I admire the preciseness of Mary Oliver and Stevie Smith though they write very differently from myself. My family were forced out of Egypt to France due to being Jewish. I have long been influenced by the wonderful writing of Nawal El Saadawi who campaigns for gender equality in Egypt and Vandana Shiva a Hindi woman who is a huge campaigner for non GMO in India and environmental equality. Neither are poets but they influence me in their courage and thinking as much as any poet. I am drawn to the feminine many times but there are some excellent male poets, though since the world has been so dominated historically by men I do appreciate the voices of women. I could probably produce a list of 100 people who influence me, many are song-writers like Kate Bush and Tori Amos, Supertramp and Bruce Springstein, Dory Previn and Ry Cooder.

Image of a woman and a hawk

Where were you raised and how does that affect your style?

In France. Then I was educated in Britain where I lived a long time before moving to America where I have lived 14 years aside one where I lived in Canada. People often ask me where do I think of as home. I cannot say. I don’t feel particularly influenced by a country so much as varied cultures. My Jewish culture influences me, it’s very different from the most Anglo Jewish culture seen in the USA. Sephardi culture is Spanish maybe that is why living in San Antonio which is predominantly Hispanic is so comfortable for me. Style-wise I speak English as taught to me in England with the influence of my varied cultures behind it (Egyptian, France, and some Americanisms!).

I hear strong politics in your work, Are you politically active?

Perhaps not as much as I used to be or as much as (we all) should be but enough that I cannot believe an armchair approach works or we should hope that others do the work for us. We should be the change we want to see. Most immigrants will confess they have felt helpless in politics, that their voices were not heard, it is up to us as adoptees of new countries to do our part and not expect others to be our representatives. Equally as a woman this is also true. I get disheartened by the lack of support women have for one another, and the continued attack on women politically but that said, we need to ensure all people are heard, rather than merely concentrating on those causes that are our own.

You write on your blog, “Please do not visit if optimism is your single mantra as you’ll be disappointed. This strives to be a judgment free zone. I appreciate critique but ultimately I cannot write with social restriction or fear of offending or being hated for what I choose. It’s my story, I make no apology.”

photo of a book cover

Have you had the feeling that other people expected you to apologize for your life? In what way?

Yes definitely. I come from a very talented family who had very high standards. I always fell short of them. I am not as technically ‘clever’ as some of my relatives and I knew that at an early age. For many years it stymied me (through my own fault) and prevented me from really writing it out. I used to work in publishing then I re-trained in Psychotherapy and worked in Rape Crisis Centers but got very burned out. I was told often I should write, but I couldn’t bring myself to because I knew I would be criticized and having grown up with a heavy dose of criticism it is hard to put yourself out there. Finally when a publisher took a chance on me that gave me the courage and confidence to go forward, the rest has been thanks to the support of my friends of my work. This year I have seen myself grow and I can only attribute this to others who have both influenced and inspired me, and kept me going when I felt I should give up. As for actually apologizing for my life, no not my actual life but what I choose to reflect in my poetry (which is by no means all autobiographical). Equally the purpose of the quote was to rebut the idea that everything we write should be optimistic and happy, I just do not agree with that. I have written uplifting and positive poetry but equal due should be given to realistic, or even sad poetry. I don’t much care for the positive movement that ironically condemns anyone who isn’t, if it were working less people would be depressed. It condemns those who are mentally ill and struggling and ensures they are further alienated, how is this progressive? I’d like to see more inclusion and less exclusion among cliques and minorities. That is what I mean when I wrote that, as well as basically asking people to take me or leave me because as any writer will attest, if you let the opinions of others hold you back you will cease to be authentic and truth to yourself.

My first book published by STPGI I was very proud of a bit like the sentimentality of a first car. I cannot really say what is my ‘best’ work because I don’t relate to the idea of ‘best’ versus whatever the opposite of that is. As Popeye says, I yam what I yam and that’s my philosophy too. For some they will be drawn to one book over the other, they all have valuable work and lesser work I’m sure.

book cover 1

What matters to you most as a writer?

It matters incredibly to give voices to things I feel society cuts down or dismisses. This is what drives me. I am often told aside the language I employ, what people feel drawn to in my work is my honesty and my willingness to ‘go there’ and talk about things others feel may be indelicate. I started a movement on WP called #unsung, it was the idea of writing about an unsung hero and many people took it up and wrote their own version. I feel as a culture we spend too much time on people that we’re told have worth like reality TV stars, and not enough time on those who actually do. It’s neither about fame nor fortune, but the messages ordinary people have that can change the world. I am very positive about the power of change through sharing truths. Truth really is everything. I expose myself not because I’m an exhibitionist (I’m probably the opposite) but in order to shine a light on truth and not be a hypocrite by hiding behind any fear of what that may bring.

What key influences do you have when it comes to subjects and emotions in writing and where do you think they came from?

I am deeply influenced by our varied cultures and the wars that go on between us, as we seek to force our opinion upon others. It angers me that anyone should tell a woman what she should do with her body, because I believe until we have walked in the shoes of someone else, we cannot understand what it is like for them to make the decisions they make. Racially I see a divide in this country like I have seen in no other, though my native France has struggled since I left, with growing divides between Muslim and non-Muslim populations that has really gotten out of control. In America I see a lot of people of color feeling they have no voice, and a lot of anglo people feeling guilty about this but not enough changing. Equally I do not believe it should be a one-way-street, as there is racism from people of color toward anglos in equal measure. The key is being honest, and calling ourselves on our stuff and that includes our hypocrisy and our feelings of entitlement. I do believe things can change and I think all writers are part of that change because we channel it through our expression. In addition I feel strongly about the voices of the mentally ill and the homosexual community, and I have tried to express this alongside equality for all oppressed peoples. I don’t know I stretch myself enough because I think our inherent bias toward certain subjects means as writers that’s going to be the bulk of our work but I try to reach into other subjects as much as possible.

41hdzcvjqsl

What motivates you as a writer and what demotivates you?

I am motivated by other writers who are kind enough to read my work and comment on it. I am motivated by the passion and rawness of other work and the variety from say, a Millennials perspective to someone in their eighties. I love the WP community for that, we come together from everywhere in the world and learn so much from each other. I am particularly enchanted by the rise in Indian poets, they are among my favorite and they can write better in English than most native English speakers which says something about our education system versus theirs! One of my favorite poets on WP is Tetiana Aleksina, she is Ukrainian and her understanding of language is unbelievable, she compels me to always try harder. What demotivates me is pretty obvious, if someone is particularly unkind, I can be defeated, and I am working on not letting that happen. Struggling with some inherited depression can influence my output but I try to work through it. Confidence is a hard thing to keep going, though I’d rather struggle with my confidence than be overly-confident, as our world already has too many narcissists. I admire humility and honesty.

Why do people feel drawn to what you write?

I think I appeal for different reasons. As a gay woman I’m one of the only gay women I know who writes regularly about our specific vantage point. As someone who is multi-cultural and of mixed ethnicity I can tap into that, and the voices of immigrants and displaced people. I try to continually improve my use of language, I am not much of a fan of rules in writing especially the forms of Tanka and Haiku but I admire and learn from those who employ them. I like to write it out without such restraints but often I am told my work has a sound that is very resonant and lyrical, if this is true it shows you can rhyme without rules. I’m working on my first book of prose, a psychological thriller of all things. I’m fortunate to have enough time in between my job to make this happen and I work really, really hard because you have to earn everything you get in life through hard work. Maybe people respect me because they know how hard I work and hopefully sometimes the result is worthy. That’s all we can ever hope for.

 

HYMEN

Too soon

the child menstruates

bleeding away her

need to play

she is captured

behind glass

starched and polished

until catching the eye of a man

old enough to have given her life

she is sold

in so much some marriages are not

choice

and her private parts are laid bare

under a shard of glass standing in for knife

then the girl knows

she is a woman

spreading her wide to ensure

she was not defiled

her hymen reinforced

her clitoris removed

fearing

if she is not sewn tightly enough

her husband will not feel

special nor soak the ritual bed sheet

scarlet

she could die if she does not tear apart

sufficiently for the relatives

who bay for her blood

fearing

if she feels anything but gratitude and pain

she may be tempted by someone else

perhaps the boy her age

who with her in the dirt played

before she had to give up

being a child and become

a woman slain

in shackles of faith

Candice has worked for Rattle poetry magazine and the Northern Review as well as being featured in many publications. She also collaborates with a bundle of talented writers at hijacked amygdala

 

Photograph of Candice Louisa Daquin
Candice Louisa Daquin

 

You can find Candice Louisa’s poetry at the following links:

 

https://www.amazon.fr/Candice-Louisa-Daquin/e/B01CYNNIJU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1479400549&sr=8-1

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/candice+louisa+daquin?_requestid=474416

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=candice+louisa+daquin

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14034803.Candice_Louisa_Daquin?from_search=true

rg 2016

 

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Featured Blogger: Kitt O’Malley

A photograph of Mental Health Advocate Kitt O'Malley
Kitt O’Malley

This month’s featured blogger is writer and Mental Health Advocate
Kitt O’Malley. In this interview we talk about internalized stigma, learning
to accept and taking up the challenge of advocating for change.

Thank you for accepting my invitation Kitt, it’s an honor to have you as November’s featured blogger on Art by Rob Goldstein.

Tell the reader a little about where you are from and how that shaped your worldview.

As a child, I moved back and forth overseas (living five years in Saudi Arabia) and between the East and West Coasts. As an adult, I moved back and forth from Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, with one year in Eugene, Oregon and a couple of years in the Mojave Desert.

Moving often throughout my life has both positively and negatively affected me. I’m flexible, for I’ve lived in different cultures and subcultures. I’ve lived most of my life feeling like an outsider. Though, now, as a mature adult raising an adolescent, I see that everyone – no matter what culture, race, age, socioeconomic status, belief system, or diagnosis – has more in common than not. We all have the same basic needs – food, shelter, health (physical and mental), and love (a basic need of mammals to thrive).

 

What kind of psychotherapy did you practice?

I was educated in psychodynamic and family systems theory, with a sociopolitical slant. New College of California was a left-wing school – appropriate for someone planning on practicing in the Bay Area (well, at least San Francisco, Berkeley, or Oakland). To prepare for licensure, everyone must understand the basics about the major theories and modalities, so after graduation, I crash-studied other “types” of psychotherapy.

 

While in graduate school, I worked as an administrator at a battered women’s shelter. All staff members took shifts backing up our crisis line volunteers, and doing intake. My field placement involved doing play therapy with severely emotionally disturbed elementary and middle school-aged (latency aged) children. Working with children excited me. Object relations theory, or attachment theory, informed my work.

 

After graduation, I specialized in working with severely emotionally disturbed adolescents. I took additional training in sand tray therapy, similar in many ways to play therapy, as it is nonverbal. Sand tray therapy has its roots in Jungian theory. I worked for a residential facility which used a moral development model built upon the directors’ studies under Lawrence Kohlberg at Harvard.

 

To help my clients, I did whatever worked. Employed at non-profit agencies with multi-disciplinary treatment and education teams, I had the advantage of other professionals’ knowledge and training. I’m a huge believer in a multidisciplinary approach. The private practice model isolates and confuses individuals and families. As a mother, I can tell you first hand that I find coordinating my own son’s care (and my care) frustrating, to say the least.

 

As a child or adolescent’s psychotherapist, I worked with the parents and the child. On top of individual, family, and group psychotherapy, I did case management and coordinated care. Working with pregnant and parenting teens as a case manager and counselor, I coordinated care and, frankly, nagged young women to finish high school and get the job skills and/or university education that would enable them to rise above poverty.

 

The last position I had in the field was as a psychotherapist at a day treatment program for severely emotionally disturbed adolescents. The program heavily used behavioral modification techniques. My observation was that heavy use of such techniques taught the young men how to work the system. They were trained for a lifetime of external control. Insight is necessary for change.

 

I left the profession after an attempted rape by one of my adolescent male day treatment clients. Unfortunately, my position there started immediately after I lost a friend from high school to AIDs. The combination of both traumas threw me into a deep depression at the age of thirty. I have not practiced psychotherapy since then.

Does your knowledge in the field help or hinder the management of your illness?

At first, it hindered it. When I was first diagnosed bipolar type II at thirty-nine, I thought that I had a serious progressive mental illness. I had not realized the extent to which I had internalized stigma against bipolar disorder, as opposed to depression. The clients that I had worked with were so ill that they required residential or day treatment. All of the sudden, I thought of myself as not fit to be a mother. I put my son in daycare and returned to work, only to eventually fall apart and require hospitalization and partial hospitalization.

When you think of encounters with stigma, which stands out as the worst?

 

My own internalized stigma stands out. I thought my son better off without me. We stopped trying to have a second child. That’s some heavy stigma. My first psychiatrist, who was a woman, reassured me that I could have another child, just on different medication. We decided, though, that one was enough.

What prompted you to start a blog?

 

My father-in-law suffered sepsis while traveling. My husband and his siblings immediately joined his parents at the hospital. The incident, having someone I love on the precipice of death, triggered hypomania. I channeled my hypomanic energy and anxiety into writing. I simply had to. Many people prayed for my father-in-law’s healing. He is still with us today. For that I am grateful.

What specific kinds of skills do you think mental health advocates need to bring to their blog?

 

Self-care. The ability to see blogging for what it is and for what it is not. Not to expect writing to be a cure, even if it can be therapeutic. To realize that you may not get positive feedback for what you write. Realize that it may trigger symptoms. Be discerning as to whom you follow and to whom you listen. My best online mental health blogging friends have recommended that I see my mental health professional team when I appear to be symptomatic.

 

Medication has helped me to maintain stability. I am pro-science and pro-medication. My interest in the field of medicine preceded my interest in mental health. For those stable on medication, stay on your medication. Be skeptical of claims to “cure” mental illness. Vet sources. I like to rely on sources such as the National Institute of Mental Health.
As a mental health advocate, what kind of policy changes do you want to see?

Multi-disciplinary treatment teams. Housing. Changes to privacy laws so family and friends can participate in treatment. Better health and medication coverage.

Is there anything you regret about the decision to go public with bi-polar illness?

For myself, no. For family members, perhaps. But, I’ve always been open. Just my personality.

What is the one thing people can do right now to combat stigma against people with mental illnesses.

Treat others kindly.

What is the question you would ask yourself as an interviewer and how would you answer it?

I have no clue. As I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, perhaps it would be: How do you deal with exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed? For which, I do not have an adequate answer. Figuring it out as I go…

Thank you Kitt!

If you check out Kitt O’Malley on LinkedIn, you’ll see that she has worked as a legal assistant, psychotherapist, and commercial real estate professional before reinventing herself as a mental health advocate. Nowadays she’s a mental health advocate, wife and mother, who neglects housework as she writes at kittomalley.com about living with bipolar disorder, parenting an adolescent migraineur with social anxiety, and being caregiver of aging parents – one with alcohol-related dementia and the other with vascular dementia secondary to stroke. She’s overwhelmed, to say the least.

 

Social Media

http://kittomalley.com

http://twitter.com/KittOMalley

http://www.facebook.com/kitt.omalley.public

http://www.linkedin.com/in/kittomalley

http://www.pinterest.com/kittomalley

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kittomalley/

http://instagram.com/kittomalley

http://www.youtube.com/user/kittomalley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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