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Uvalde and Me

Most of us are absolutely horrified by the shooting that took place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. I attended a public elementary school when I was a child and felt very safe, but it was the sixties. Times have changed. Many things have changed in recent decades.

There are two things I have in common with Uvalde. The first is that my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all have roots in Uvalde. It is where they grew up. Most of my relatives were teachers. One of them was a principal many years ago in Uvalde. My half-brother was born in Uvalde. My father was a teacher in another city. Most of my relatives were and are involved in the area of education.

The second thing I have in common with the situation in Uvalde is that my mother suffered from mental illness. She was hospitalized numerous times and attempted to take her own life more times than I care to remember. The discussion of changes in Texas in regards to mental health should be a priority.

Recently, I drove to the Texas State Library in Austin. I was in the area and realized I had never been. I looked into the subject of mental health in Texas and found the following speech by Governor Alan Shivers that was created in 1950!!

Texas, the proud Lone Star State – first in oil – 48th in mental hospitals.

Governor of Texas, Alan Shivers. A special session was called and the speech was given on January 31, 1950.

Sadly, not much has changed in 72 years.

Texas, the proud Lone Star State – first in oil – 48th in mental hospitals. [quote from a speech given by the governor of Texas is 1950!]


WHO LOBBIES FOR MENTAL HEALTH IN TEXAS? WHO LOBBIES FOR THE HOMELESS?

National Alliance for Mental Illness spent $55,778 for lobbying in the year 2019.

https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/summary?cycle=2019&id=D000054118

Compare that to $200,000 spent by the American Heart Association in 2022.

https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/summary?id=D000044642

We owe it to our children.

We owe it to our citizens.

TEXAS CAN DO BETTER!

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Brave and Kind

Although my stories are sometimes filled with traumatic events, they are also stories of faith, survival, healing, friendship and most importantly, love.

It is my hope that people will have a glimpse behind the curtain of a horrible illness called paranoid schizophrenia. There is no cure. There is little help, so the people who suffer with it and their families cling to any hope they can find.

I could not write any of my stories in any format without the support and kindness of my friends and family.

Brene Brown has been an inspiration in so many ways. “Tell your Story. Be strong and brave.”

I’m trying, Brene. I’m trying.

Many of my stories have never been told, the very definition of secrets.

It pulls from a well that is filled with strength, hope, faith and love for my parents.

I was fortunate to have very stable and determined role models in my extended family. The research I have done on Ancestry has contributed to my well of strength. My ancestors came mostly from northern Europe and Wales. On my mother’s side, they arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in the 1700s. They were honorable, hardworking people. Their stories coincide with the story of our country. They fought for a better life. Sometimes they lost loved ones, cattle and money, but they endured and passed down a hearty, resilient lot. Their descendants became educators, principals, superintendents, parents who loved and raised numerous children.

Given my mother’s history, I wasn’t sure what I would find in the annals of time, but fortunately, it added courage and faith to my well and helped me finally sit down and begin my book, “It Runs Deep”. It is written by a woman who qualifies as a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

America’s New Asylums – Power in Words

Below is an excerpt from The Treatment Advocacy Center – Emptying the New Asylums. https://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/storage/documents/emptying-new-asylums-exec-summary.pdf

In 2016, nearly 400,000 inmates in US jails and prisons were estimated to have a mental health condition. Of those inmates, an estimated 90,000 were defendants who had been arrested and jailed but had not come to trial because they were too disordered to understand the charges on which they were detained. All but three states authorize evaluating the mental competency of such offenders within the jails or in the community, and some states authorize treatment to restore competency outside a hospital.

Yet, America’s state hospitals remain the default option for providing pretrial mental health services to criminal defendants.

There is no fast or easy fix for the mental health system failures that have taken half a century to develop. In an ideal world, individuals with acute or chronic psychiatric distress should not have to worry about wait times in jail for mental health beds because they would receive timely and effective treatment when they needed it and jail diversion when their symptoms led to criminal justice involvement. Under current less-than-ideal circumstances, reducing
inmate bed waits and ED boarding will require implementing a combination of strategies that reduce forensic bed demand, increase bed supplies or both.
Computer modeling offers policymakers and mental health officials a mathematical tool for developing evidence-based policy and practice to break the logjam of inmates with mental illness who are unable to come to trial because they are too sick. Although it would not address the hospitalization needs of the other populations, this step alone could moderate the nation’s bed shortage, reduce mass incarceration of people with mental illness and make existing beds available to more patients.

That would be a start.

The Quiet

It’s Sunday morning, and it’s finally quiet. My rogue cat has her tummy full and is going through her cleaning ritual. The Boss of Me (“BOM”) has decided to leave me alone for a little while.

I reach for my book, “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. She helps me see, helps me feel.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am old now. Why am I after the moon tonight? I have known all these years since that you can never run all the way to the end and lay your hand up against awe.

One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

As many continue to struggle and acknowledge there is a God, a best selling author comes along to help us find Him.

As I wrestle with my own self doubts – telling myself I can’t write, no one will read what I have to say, no one will care, I will be criticized……and a myriad of other doubts, I pick up Ann’s book.

She writes about God, her faith, her family and even the eucharist. Her book is a New York Times best seller. Does that not tell us that people are always searching?

Sanity Manifesto

I love Ann Voskamp’s words. She gets to the soul – the grit of the matter.

You’re more than your hands do.
You’re more than your hands have.
You’re more than how other hands measure you.
You are what is written on God’s Hands:
Safe. Held. His.
Beloved. -Ann Voskamp

Below is a link to her free inspirational quotes:

What if?

What if all of us know someone or are related to someone with a severe mental illness, but we feel better when it’s a secret?

First, please hear me when I say, “I am not judging you.”

I feel at liberty to discuss schizophrenia for the following reasons:

  • My job is not dependent on what I reveal about my family, nor should it ever be ;
  • More people are discussing mental health issues;
  • I’m older. If I don’t do it now, will I ever do it?;
  • My parents are deceased; and
  • I have a wee bit of courage, not a whole lot, but a wee bit.

Maybe that’s all it takes sometimes…is just a wee bit of courage.

Where was God?

When I look back at all the chaos in my mother’s life, I have asked myself the important question, “Where was God in all of the mess?”

I awoke this morning with the answer. He was in the morning glories I saw every day. He was there in the home of a new friend. He was there when I heard my sister sing, “He can turn the tides and calm the angry sea.”

I searched for Him. I found Him. He gave me hope through dark waters – through midnights.

For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NIV)

When I heard the Good News, my life changed. Of course, the waters continued to be turbulent, but there was an anchor. There was a balm in Gilead. 

I found whom my soul loveth.

Song of Solomon 3:4

I found music. I found the tones of the cello reassuring and life affirming.

I found Living Water.

Electroshock Therapy

Just to type those two words, “Electroshock Therapy” makes my heart beat faster and causes my anxiety to rise. To remember that my mother had electroshock therapy in the 50s and 60s both satisfies me and frightens me.

If you have found your way to my blog on my mother’s schizophrenia, please do not be alarmed. Electroshock therapy is not always a bad thing. It’s administered very differently than it was during my mother’s lifetime.

There is much talk about how bad the mental hospitals were in the 50s an 60s. Equally horrifying to some is the idea of electroshock therapy. I can only tell you as an eyewitness to my mother’s condition, she came out of the hospital a more sane person than when she went in. She was not a zombie. We could actually talk to each other after her treatment. I did not see the mummified person that is depicted in the movies.

Thorazine is another word that might scare people. I can only, once again, tell you from my eye witness account of my mother’s emotional state when she was off the thorazine, things were not pretty, which is putting it mildly. Most of us who were around my mother could tell when she was off her medication. The paranoia haunted her. The cries in the night, the “dialogue” with people through the printed word of the newspaper were horrid. Horrid.

Imagine your worst frightful memory and multiply it by 10,000.

When you see the deranged man in the street that is alone and cold, remember that his brain may be experiencing delusions, hallucinations and paranoia. Simply put, we give people a coat, which is admirable, but what they REALLY need is their medication. Society presumes to know what they need when they are not even aware of their illness. We try to tell them about religion, which is not a bad thing, but what they often need is a warm bed and family who is estranged from them because they will not accept treatment. Texas is toward the bottom of all the states in our country in how it treats the mentally ill. Jails and prisons are becoming the new asylum.

The link below gives the data.


https://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/browse-by-state/texas

Anosognosia

Long before I knew that anosognosia was a word, I knew it existed. Even after multiple hospital stays and numerous attempted suicides, delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia, my mother NEVER admitted she had any mental health condition. Finally, there is a word for it, “Anosognosia”. Frankly, I have trouble pronouncing the word, but it’s good to know it exists. Imagine how hard it is to get help for a loved one when you call to make an appointment at your local MHMR and hear the words, “They must call.” WHAT?!!

How and why would my mentally ill mother make a phone call for something she never acknowledged?! You think it might be difficult to get people help?!!

“The Soul Began to March”

The quote above ignited me years ago to begin my writing journey. I do not remember where it came from. If you know, please tell me, so that I can give the author acknowledgement.

Author, Unknown

Today, I’m writing about the data and MY soul.

Maybe stories are just data with a soul.

Brene Brown

Today, I’m giving you the data, which is not that interesting to everyone. I’m also giving you a part of my soul, my story. I hope you read it.

“In 2016, nearly 400,00 inmates in US jails and prisons were estimated to have a mental health condition. Of those inmates, an estimated 90,000 were defendants who had been arrested and jailed but had not come to trial because they were too disordered to understand the charges on which they were detained.” – Treatment Advocacy Center

Here is the cold, hard truth. If my father and my mother’s family did not watch over my middle class, white mother, she would have been one of those statistics. “It’s the family’s responsibility,” you might judge, then say aloud.

Picture this, you have a son who begins to exhibit odd behavior. In fact, the behavior is so odd, that you realize you need to get help for him. You take him to the nearby hospital and try to explain the bizarre symptoms – the delusions, the paranoia about the FBI and the CIA, both of which have absolutely nothing to do with him, his family or his friends. He begins to self-harm or lash out physically to your spouse or another child. The hospital tells you they can do nothing without your 20 something son’s consent and even then, they are powerless to help him.

Thus begins your nightmare. The data and your son, your soul have met. What will you do? He’s harming others. He’s obsessed with the government whom he believes is controlling his thoughts. Your spouse threatens to leave if the behavior does not stop.

This scenario is repeated over and over again. Pete Earley, a former journalist with the Washington Post, has written a book that involves his son who has bipolar.

Not all of us are well known journalist. Thank God Pete Earley is.

If you don’t have time to read a book, please listen to D. J. Jaffe in the youtube video above.

There is a problem. It needs to be fixed somehow and some way. First, we have to acknowledge the problem.

Writing about Difficult Things

As I write about my mother’s schizophrenia, I must admit, it’s stressful. I intend to finish my book by the end of February. I’ve talked about writing a book for over 20 years. If I don’t do it now, I may not have another chance.

I have a few wonderful, supportive friends. One of my friends recently said, “You are brave. I know it’s not easy.” I thanked her. I shared the beginning chapters with a few people, and she was the only person who acknowledged that it is not something I do lightly.

Writing is not an easy task. Writing about difficult, personal things makes the road more like a mountain to climb.

Some would say, “Why do it?!!”

My response, “I feel I must. Most people don’t know what they don’t know about schizophrenia.”

I’ve heard the following from some very intelligent friends with good intentions:

“Can’t they pull themselves up by their boot straps?!”

“I think they hear voices from another dimension.”

“Don’t air dirty laundry.”

One of the worst comments I heard from a co-worker who didn’t know my mother was mentally ill. “Some people should not continue living.”

I was asked to give a devotion at work one Monday morning years ago. The movie, “Beautiful Mind” came out the year before. I had always wanted to tell my mother’s story, so I kept it brief, but I tried to convey how horrible the illness is, what a mystery it is and how this life is thankfully, not all there is.

It was awkward. I knew it would be. One co-worker looked at the floor the entire time. Another told me that had to be hard. It’s a shame that we can’t be open about schizophrenia. Society talks about all kinds of things. The Me Too movement has opened the flood gates on discussing sexual violence and harassment. It has empowered women who have been victims. They now have a voice.

I keep waiting for the flood gates to open regarding mental illness. We all have stories. I struggle with mine. There is a certain amount of shame I feel over something that I had absolutely no control over.

Perhaps you are considering how to push back your inner voice that says, “don’t do it”, “this is embarrassing,” and “what will people think of me.” If you are committed to telling your story, do it “awkwardly”, do it “bravely” and do it “kindly”. Listen to some Brene Brown podcasts. She interviews some very, very brave authors.

Be sure to take care of yourself while you tell your story. Establish a routine, if possible. Get plenty of sleep. Rest when you need to. Visit with your friends and laugh over silly things. Write the hard stuff. Take your weapons – your pen and paper and push against the hard stuff. Put your armour on, but take it off when you’re done writing, take a long walk…..and just breathe.

Treat yourself with kindness. You deserve it.

Diary of a 2nd Grade Cowgirl

There will be great victories on this New Year’s Day. Lots of Bowl games. Lots of excitement. There will be wins and there will be losses. It’s the way life goes.

This morning, I woke up thinking about a small victory I had when I was in the 2nd grade.

It was picture day, so that meant the school had a list of things we could and couldn’t wear. On this particular picture day, I decided I had to wear my cowboy boots. They were black and fit like a glove. The following words were repeated more than once by my parents and sister, “They will NOT be able to see your boots!”

I did not care. You know how it is. If you feel good in some new shoes or you’re wearing a designer purse, it’s sort of like having a super power. I don’t know of any cartoon characters that become stronger when they put on a pair of shoes, but if you’re a woman, you understand the power of rocking your favorite outfit with your favorite boots.

It did not happen often in my house, but I actually won the battle. They finally gave in and this 2nd grader pranced to school in a red plaid dress, long black stringy hair and, yes, her black cowboy boots. It is my favorite school picture. I had a smile on my face like I was the Queen of West Texas 1965.

Happy New Year Everyone! Put on those cowboy boots, y’all!

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