Mental Illness Labels : Alphabet Soup Poem

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Yesterday I commented on a post by blogger Myloudbipolarwhispers about mental illness labels. In the comment, I explained how one of my foster kids once had a therapist who talked about the dangers of “alphabet soup”, which is when people start collecting so many labels (ADHD, ADD, ASD, PTSD, SAD, OCD, DID, BPD, RAD, and so on and so on) that they lose sense of themselves as a person or even worse, those treating them lose sight of their humanity and just see them as a list of diagnoses.

I shared in the comment that I even wrote a short poem about “alphabet soup”, which ended up in my book about foster care (From Both Sides). Myloudbipolarwhispers mentioned that she would like to see the poem, so I figured I would just share it in a post here, since it definitely fits the themes of this blog:

Alphabet Soup
By: Maranda Russell

Some good old-fashioned RAD,
a touch of PTSD,
just a hint of OCD,
a generous helping of ADHD
and a pinch of ODD
to taste.

Add it all together
and what do you get?

Alphabet soup…

and a kid
made entirely
of labels.

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When Non-Profits Only Care About the Money

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On Facebook I shared a post about some tax changes that are being made to churches and non-profit institutions. The debate that started, made me think about my own experience working for a non-profit organization and I wanted to share a little bit of that here. For around 6 months or so, I worked for a non-profit religious hospital system. My job was to be one of the people in the emergency department who collected patient information (especially insurance information) and processed payments.

From the beginning, it was drilled into us that it was about the money. We were hounded to make sure we collected certain percentages of money from patients while they were still there in the building, whether they could afford it or not. We were encouraged to apply pressure to them to pay at least a percentage that day, regardless of their personal circumstances. Although patients could legally ask to be billed later, we were told to NEVER tell them that, and only offer that option if they brought it up first.

We were told bluntly that the hospital had to make sure to look like they were doing enough “public outreach” to keep their non-profit tax status, so when they did run public assistance programs we were told to advertise them when talking to patients. It became clear that they didn’t necessarily do programs for the poor because they CARED about them, it was so they could continue to get the tax breaks and other non-profit advantages. I heard so much negative talk there about Medicaid patients and the poor. I was also told flat out that the company was purposefully looking into opening more locations in areas where the people were more likely to pay, and closing locations where the populations were poorer.

One huge issue I had was that even when someone was brought to the ER and died, we were pressured to try to get money from their grieving relatives. More than once, those in charge actually chose not to tell family members that their loved one had passed away until AFTER we collected insurance information and copays/deductible payments. They would send us in, and we would know the family’s loved one was gone, but we were told to lie and pretend we knew nothing. This killed me to have to do. One time a lady begged me for information on her husband who was dead, and I couldn’t tell her anything. I also struggled to go up to a mother whose child has just tried to commit suicide and ask her for money. I felt like scum.

In the end, I couldn’t keep this job due to my own health issues, but I couldn’t have kept doing it with a clear conscience either.

Interview with author Tammy Ruggles

(Before we get to the actual interview, I just had to say that this author really made me happy!  Since Edgar Allan Poe has always been my favorite author, it is a joy to get to write about another devout fan of his!  Also, the first two writers I would choose to meet, living or dead, are the exact same ones this author chose!)

OK, now on to the interview…

Tammy Ruggles is a writer who dabbles in many different areas.  She has had a fair share of success with her most recent published work, Peace: Quotations & Aspirations for a Peaceful Planet, but may be even more well-known for the audio books she has created for young adults under her pen name, Miss Tammy.  These audio books are gritty and realistic, meeting kids and teens right where they are, in the midst of this confusing, often messed up world we live in.

I could tell you more about Miss Tammy, but perhaps it would be best to let her tell you in her own words…

1. When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author? What made you want to choose this career path?

I first got that dream when I was about 13, which was when I started writing short stories and my friends passed them around to each other at school. My classmates really liked them and I really liked creating the stories, so I kept doing it, but I didn’t have any aspirations of becoming a real, professional, published writer. It was something I did on the sidelines as a hobby, just for myself. I didn’t choose it as a career path until I was 40, when I had to retire from my first chosen career, which was social work. Even at 40 I wasn’t sure I could write professionally. I still felt like that 13-year-old writer. It still seemed like a hobby. But I gave it a chance. It took a lot of query letters, but it worked. The first article I ever sold to a magazine was about babysitting, and I got a check for $35. It felt like Christmas!

2. Who are some of the authors that greatly influenced your writing style? What were some of your favorite books as a kid?

Well, I wish I knew what my style is! I don’t know. But I dearly loved Dr. Seuss books, and still do. He really sets the imagination free. I liked Chalou, which was the story about a dog, because it’s a story that tugs on your heart. Later, Harold Robbins was a writer whose style I liked to read, which was simple and easy. William Peter Blatty riveted me with The Exorcist. Peter Benchley is another writer whose basic, direct style was something I liked. And I cannot leave out Edgar Allan Poe. There is an elegance and a rhythm and pace to his stories that I really get into.

3. Did you have a hard time getting your first book published?

I think it was a little hard trying to break in at 40. It took about 500 rejection letters from all kinds of publishers to get that one yes for Peace.

4. Assuming that you write for children or young adults, what made you decide to write for those age groups? Do you still feel connected to your “inner child”?

I think I have a connection with kids. They seem to like me. I still feel like a kid at heart sometimes. I haven’t forgotten the ups and downs of childhood and adolescence, and, being a retired social worker, writing about and for kids and teenagers in trouble comes easy for me. I don’t mind writing about touchy subjects. It’s reality, what kids are really going through. Like with my two new audio books coming up: How To Save A Life is about a boy who tries to save his best friend’s life, and Summer Doesn’t Dance Anymore is about a teenage girl afraid to tell even her best friend that she’s been raped. Then I have a 3rd one, an Edgar Allan Poe story, The Tell-Tale Heart, which is a little different for me because I didn’t write it.

5. What are some of your hobbies, other than writing?

I love going to movies. I love sketching. I love cooking. I love listening to music.

6. Do you have any sage advice for new authors who are just entering the field?

One, keep trying. If you give up too soon, you’ll regret it. Try not to take it personally when your material gets rejected. That’s part of publication. Just learn from it and go on. Grow. Two, although writing is an art, it’s also a business, so keep that in mind when dealing with editors and publishers. Three, write what makes you feel good, what comes easy to you, always try something new or different, and finish projects that you start. Four, don’t just talk about writing. Actually write. And five, don’t forget the query letter. Publication begins with querying. You must do this continually. It’s probably the most important part of becoming published.

7. Do you hold any other jobs outside of your writing? If so, do you find that this helps your writing or gets in the way?

Since I’m retired, I have a lot of free time for writing, and I love doing it, but I don’t let writing get in the way of my family, friends, and faith. I like to have a balance of things. I think it helps the writing when you fill yourself up with life and doing other things besides writing. Then you’ll have something to come back and write about.

8. If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I would like to meet two of them. Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Dickinson, because I’d want to ask them, “How do you do it?” but I’d probably be too nervous to meet them.

9. Do you have any other information you would like to share, such as a website, author page, awards won, etc.?

I don’t have any awards, but I do have a professional website that tells about my stuff:

http://tammyruggles.tripod.com/

Then there are a few websites where you can go and hear my audiobooks:

www.learnoutloud.com

www.teachoutloud.com

www.youtube.com/misstammyschannel

And other places on the internet like amblingbooks.com or audiobooktreasury.com. Just google it and you’ll find the places I didn’t mention.