Unorthodox and Unhinged

Tales of a Manic Christian


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Missed it? No problem! SpeakeasyDC Unhinged on Youtube!

April 25th eight masterful storytellers took to the stage at Emmanuel on High before a packed house. The 300 plus folks in the pews laughed, cried, listened and learned to voices that are seldom heard.

Unhinged Picture Album, PhotographyByAlexander

The SpeakeasyDC performance was recorded. Five of the eight storytellers have elected to share the video version with the public.

Click on the links to watch and to hear the tales of Bipolar Joani, (Me!),Psychiatric Nurse Matt (Matthew Manning); OCD Bobak (Bobak Shafiei); Panic Attack Mike (Mike Kane), and Spill Your Guts Therapy Mikael (Mikael Johnson). All true stories worth hearing – and worth hearing again.

You will love them all, I promise!

SpeakeasyDC Unhinged April 25 on YouTube

Watch them anywhere, anytime on the device of your choice. Watch them alone or watch them with friends. Watch them just to enjoy them. Watch them to learn something new.Talk about them and share them anyway and anywhere you can.

Lean in and listen. You likely may recognize friends and neighbors, family and loved ones. You may very likely recognize the likes of yourself.

That’s a good thing. You are not alone.

Everybody, yes everybody is a little bit Unhinged!

Thanks again to all the sponsors who made this possible: Emmanuel on High, The Friends of the Alexandria City Mental Health Center, Virginia Theological Seminary,  Bishop Shannon Johnston, and many, many, many TinyGivers!

Thanks be to God!

JoaniSign


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What’s in a Name?

baby-names1 - you named we what 2

My mother ran out of names.

Providence Hospital, DC, March 3, 1955: Three days old, I lay swaddled in the nursery nameless.

Preceded by a sister, Maureen Ann, and a brother, Timothy Francis, it seems my mom had already exhausted a very brief list of favorite names and could not come up with one for baby number three – me!

The discharge nurse told my mom I had to have a name to be discharged. “What shall I write  on the birth certificate? “ My mom responded with a question. “What’s your name? she asked the nurse. “Joan”, she said. “Then we’ll call her ‘Joan’,” my mom said, “and tack on ‘Louise’. That’s my middle name. That’ll work.”

So I went home as JoanJoan Louise.

Growing up I searched for a grander story – a better story to tell. A grandiose little Catholic soul, I believed I was named for Jean d’Arc. A lacquered portrait of Joan hung on my bedroom wall – a First Communion present from my second cousin, the priest – Father Buddy Litkey. Shining in her armor, mounted on a white horse, banner furled, and wielding her sword, I believed myself her heir apparent.

So I canonized myself – St. Joan.

Yet even sanctified, It did not take long to grow bored with my monosyllabic name. (Don’t you love it that “monosyllabic” has five syllables?:)) Such a plain Jane name is Joan. So at my confirmation – as little RC kids traditionally do – I chose a saint to be my patron.

I chose “Veronica”: the woman of legend who wipes the face of Jesus on his way to Calvary. Her beautiful name literally means “true icon”. So beautiful. But for none of the above reasons did I choose it.

I chose it because it was the sexiest damn name this little 10 year old could come up with. Four syllables, exotic, and musical it rolled off the tongue –

Veronica!

But everyone still called me Joan. Well Joani actually (as I spell it now).

As a kid I tried to stretch my name on the page by adding letters: Joan, Joanie, Joannie. In my hippy dippy adolescence I chopped off a couple– an “n” and an “e” in homage to Joni Mitchell. I still have all of Joni’s music on my iPod, but I held on to the “a” for my own namesake:

Joani.

Two weeks ago at SpeakeasyDC’s “Unhinged”, Dara, one of the storytellers, introduced us to her husband’s alter egos. Struggling in their marriage, she met them all in therapy. Out came Michael, a shy and vulnerable boy. Out came drill sergeant, Charlie, his champion and protector.

Her husband, who suffers from DID, Dis-Associative Identity Disorder, by any other name is still her husband. All three gentlemen sitting on the couch were fragments of the man she loves. Shattered by trauma, to cope and survive, he gives them different names.

Each week in therapy they would pick up the pieces, befriending the fragments, collecting them together, both hoping to be be healed, both hoping to be made whole.

And I too go to therapy — twice monthly — to remember my name. I go to recall who I am, to recall just who my God calls me to be – in this time and in this place. And in ten years time, who I call myself has changed many times over.

Names change as lives change. Biblically speaking, on the way to the Promised Land, Sarai becomes SarahAbram becomes Abraham. Wrestling with angels, Jacob is renamed as Israel.

Even the Holy One, whose name was never to be spoken, has too many names to number: Elohim, el Shaddai, YWHW, I AM, Emmanuel – just to name a few.

So what’s in a name?

Well for each and everyone of us  – a whole, whole lot.

Name them and claim them.  Count them up and collect them. Try to understand them. Hold them close and cherish them. Good. Bad. Indifferent. Birth to death, each and every one is an integral and indispensable part of you.

Thanks be to the nameless God — who calls us all by name — whatever that might be.

JoaniSign


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Labor Pains & Stretch Marks

great with child

Theotokos, God-bearer, Truth-bearer.

It was Advent of ‘83 and I was pregnant with God.

Well at least a little bit pregnant with God.

That frosty November, I was new to the Episcopal Church and flattered beyond belief to be joining the worship planning committee. You see, I grew up Roman Catholic and Sunday services were just endless reruns of Father Knows Best. We lay folks stayed glued to our pews. Fenced off from the altar by a rail, we knew our place. Only the priest was allowed to perform those magical mysteries and pronounce God’s hocus-pocus.

So miracle of miracles in Advent of ’83 at Immanuel-on-the-Hill, and pregnant with my second child, I played the Theotokos. I played the Theotokos in a very awkward and makeshift, hippy-dippy liturgical drama – Mary, Pregnant with God.

Such a brilliant narrative arc! It was a three Sunday cycle through the three trimesters. On the fourth Sunday: pant; blow; PUSH!

It was my shortest pregnancy of record – so different from the previous three.

Being the mother of three, I have spent the better part of three years pregnant. And what my brain might not recall from those twenty-seven months – my body most certainly does:

Seasickness on land; nauseated with just one whiff of coffee (Best pregnancy test ever! I love the smell of coffee.); expanding waistline; swollen feet; wobbly gate; expansive in mood; energetic in spirit; exhausted by the smallest of efforts; cranky and uncomfortable; floating on hope; anxiety ridden; excited as hell; bursting with life.

Ladies, did I leave anything out?

You know that horrible hymn? Come labor on? Well God blessed me and gifted me with wide-birthing hips. So assisted by my friend, Gravity, I did not labor long.

I delivered my firstborn, Zach in just two and a half hours. Dainty daughter, Colleen was born in just four. And Jacob, number three, was nearly spontaneously birthed on the sidewalk outside the Emergency Room.

There was no time for drugs. There was barely time to get to the hospital and push.

So with the baby born and nuzzling at my breast, naturally manic me was euphoric squared, euphoric to the 1000th power. Blissfully exhausted and wide, wide awake, every little fiber of my being was belting out the Hallelujah Chorus.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given!

Now everyone has given birth. Be ye male or female, young or old, everyone, everywhere has given birth. Made in the image of the Creator, we are all fertile souls. And even if we are not in the business of procreation, we are all in the business of co-creation.

Over the course of the last nine (well actually eight) months, I birthed my fourth amazing child. And at sixty years of age, this is more than a minor miracle!

Back in September my bipolar brain conceived her. Formed in the pit of my stomach. Nourished by my frazzled flesh and bones. She kicked my insides and stole my sleep. A labor of love, she stretched me beyond knowing. Expanding in the dark — she was born in the light.

This past Saturday on April 25th.

SpeakeasyDC was both birth coach and midwife. Unhinged is her name.

Eight amazing storytellers told eight amazing stories about living with mental illness, loving someone with mental illness, and working in the field. Three hundred people packed the house. Laughter, tears, understanding, and standing ovations.

The truth was told: my truth, their truth, our truth, God’s truth, nothing but the truth.

Labor pains and stretch marks, the truth will set you free.

So friends, ready to get a little bit pregnant?

JoaniSign


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Tickets for “Unhinged”! Free! Please RSVP to SpeakEasyDC!

speakeasydc

Unhinged: True Stories about Living with Mental Illness premiers live on the SpeakeasyDC stage April 25th, 8:00 pm, at Emmanuel on High (no, not Immanuel on the Hill!), 1608 Russell Rd, Alexandria, VA.

Eight masterfully crafted first person tales of living with mental illness, loving someone with mental illness, or working in the field of mental illness.

Tickets are now available. The performance is free. Please RSVP to SpeakeasyDC. Click on the link to reserve a seat.

http://speakeasydc.com/events/item/unhinged

Let’s pack the house and make a difference.

Hope to see you there.

JoaniSign


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U&U Coming to a Stage Near U: April 25, 2015, SPEAKEASYDC

speakeasydc

SPEAKEASYDC, Amy Saidman, Executive Director

 

I am a woman with a storied past. I tell stories here weekly  — stories most unorthodox and unhinged. Ghost stories, bedtime stories, bible stories, camp fire stories, family stories, horror stories, funny stories, glory stories, and true stories of a bipolar and sometimes balanced life. I tell the truth, the God’s honest truth and nothing but the truth one story at a time.

This is story #41.

There is no better way to tell the truth than to tell a story.

And this woman is a devoted disciple of Jesus, the Story Teller. Whether you believe in Jesus or not really doesn’t’ matter. What matters is that Jesus was a hell of a storyteller. Seductively simple, Jesus’ arresting parables engage the head and disarm the heart. Folks who have never cracked open a bible in their lives immediately recognize the story of the Good Samaritan or the tale of the Prodigal Son.

No better way to tell the truth than to tell a story.

The Bible is really just a book of family stories. Some confusing, some comforting, some terrifying, some edifying, some mortifying, some glorifying, some death defying, some life giving, some poignant, some tragic, some miraculous, some crazy, some healing. Some might even say saving stories.

No better way to tell the truth than to tell a story.

So that is what I do for a living. I tell stories. I climb into the pulpit from time to time not to preach but to tell stories. The Gospel story is not meant to lie lifeless on the page. With a little help the words need to be made flesh. Made flesh in sight and sound, in touch and taste and smell. Yes what does this story smell like? And what does it really mean?

No better way to tell the truth than to tell a story.

Last summer after the 8:00 am Sunday service, shaking hands at the door, a young woman named Katie Kelly spoke to me. “You are a really good story teller. Have you ever done storytelling?” “Only in the pulpit” I told her. “But I write stories. I am bipolar and I have a blog called Unorthodox & Unhinged about mental health and faith.” “I am active with NAMI” she told me “and on the board of SPEAKEASYDC” she told me. “The director, Amy Saidman and I have been talking for some time about doing a show about mental health. Would you like to meet her?”

“OMG! YES!.” I said.

Amy Saidman and I met in September. And we agreed — stories like mine need to be told far and wide. They need to be told live and on stage with a real audience up close and personal. A stage for people seldom seen. A venue for voices rarely heard. True stories truly making a difference. So let’s make this happen.

OMG! SPEAKEASYDC is working with little old me. But not just me. I tell crazy stories so others like me can too.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four adults – approximately 61.5 million Americans experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 20 per cent of youth ages 13 -18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year and approximately 13 per cent for ages 8 -13. Despite the profound impact that mental illness has on so many individuals, families, and communities it remains misunderstood and taboo.

This is about me. This is about you. This is about us. All of God’s children have a story to tell.

So coming to a stage near you, at Emmanuel on High, Alexandria, Virginia at 8:00 pm, on Saturday, April 25, 2015, U&U is proud to present:

Unhinged: True Tales of Living with Mental Illness

A unique, fresh, first person program, and out of the closet approach to mental health advocacy, produced in collaboration with SPEAKEASYDC, called “the gold standard in storytelling” by the Washington Post.

SPEAKEASYDC is renowned for creating spaces in which diverse perspectives are expressed and heard through the art of contemporary autobiographical storytelling. Unhinged will feature eight masterly crafted true stories on the theme of living with a mental illness, loving someone with a mental illness, or working in the field.

The storytellers will come from a wide variety of backgrounds, situations and settings. The program will be recorded by SPEAKEASYDC and made widely available for mental health advocacy and education.

The performance is free to the public and is made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Friends of the Alexandria City Mental Health Center, Virginia Theological Seminary, The Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, NAMI, and Emmanuel on High Episcopal Church.

And it’s not too late! You can be a sponsor too. We are more than two thirds of the way to reach our funding goal of $3000 which supports five weeks of training sessions for the storytellers, promotion, staging, and professional reproduction of the DVD.

And I would be very grateful indeed — if you would consider a tax deductible gift to SPEAKEASYDC in support of Unhinged: True Tales of Living with Mental Illness. em>A little help can go a long way.

I have a birthday coming up. A big birthday coming up and it ends in a zero! So can I challenge you, my friends, to contribute $6, $16, $60, dare I say even $600? The more we raise, the more these stories can be heard. The more these stories can be heard, the more people we can reach. The more people we can reach, the more difference we can truly make — to educate, elucidate, illuminate, and advocate on behalf of the many who live with mental illness.

There are two ways to give: Click on https://tinygive.com/organizations/speakeasydc or you can Tweet “I’m giving $__ to @speakeasydc to support Unhinged: True Tales of Living w/Mental Illness 4/25 #tinygive.” Tinygive.com will contact you for details. People can give the same amount by retweeting too!

There is no better way to tell the truth than to tell a story.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

JoaniSign