Oprah’s Book Club

I discovered a fascinating book, “Hidden Valley Road” by Robert Kolker. It is one of Oprah’s Book Club picks, which are on Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/oprahsbookclub/?hl=en

Out of a family of 12, there were 6 siblings who had schizophrenia. They lived on Hidden Valley Road in Colorado. As was the case with my mother, the severe symptoms and psychotic breaks occurred in their twenties.

There are still many mysteries surrounding this horrible illness; however, this book has opened some necessary doors.

It reads like a novel. Robert Kolker has done a wonderful job telling some horrific stories. I only wish he could tell mine.

For some reason, I feel I have found gold.

The Comforter Has Come

I’ve experienced hopelessness and deep emotional pain, but I am so very thankful that there is an Emmanuel who gives us hope and incredible joy!

I began searching for God when I was a pre-teen. It went deeper than a casual desire to know Him. My older sister began to tell me about living water and the story of the woman at the well. When I heard her sing the song in church, I began to weep. I had no idea that there was a God who loved me, a God who could hear me, and a God who could “quench the thirsting in my soul”. My soul was so very thirsty. He filled my cup. He brought me joy through despair. He can do the same for you.

Friends of the Past, Present and Future

If you have found a friend, her price is far above any cryptocurrency one might own.

She’s there with a special bandaid when you burn your hand or make a bad choice.

She’s there when you fall – not to laugh at you but help you up.

She cooks for you until she’s too tired to stand.

She cleans up your messes, not just the ones found in the kitchen.

She listens when your heart hurts.

She cries when you weep.

You can laugh with her over the silliest of things.

Lucy and Ethel have nothing on them.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting”, but a true dyed in the wool friend who can cheer you on, she is a treasure that no amount of money can buy.

Thank you to ALL my friends, past present and future.

Mental Health Centers

Many decades ago, I was part of a carpool that left San Marcos, Texas and arrived in Austin for jobs we had with the State of Texas. We were not a talkative group, and I was new to the area.

I sat next to a gentleman who helped change my family’s life. He happened to be a member of the Scheib family, which initially did not mean a great deal to me. I must have brought up the need for mental health services, and he told me about the Scheib Center in San Marcos. It was a godsend.

I’m not sure if my father thought my mother’s mental illness would magically go away when we moved near her parents, or if he just felt like he needed to focus on food and shelter for us. It was clear to me that after decades of dealing with her schizophrenia, which included delusions, hallucinations, attempted suicides, multiple traumatic events, multiple stays in Big Springs State Hospital, my mother’s schizophrenia had to be dealt with.

My father retired from teaching in El Paso in 1979. What are the odds that I would end up in a carpool with a member of the Scheib family? I knew very few people in the area. All my friends were back in El Paso where I grew up.

“The Scheib Center was started as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation in 1971 with money bequeathed by Dr. and Mrs. Scheib for the purpose of providing services to the developmentally disabled and emotionally disturbed individuals in the San Marcos/Hays County area. The service programs were in partnership with the Texas Department of MHMR. The Scheib Center provided the buildings and the Texas Department of MHMR provided the money and staff.”

I learned quickly that Scheib Center (https://www.scheibcenter.org) offered several services to not only their clients or patients but also to their family members. Once my father heard it from me, he quickly went into action. My mother’s medications were lined up. We had a social worker. I still remember her first name. She spent time talking with me over the phone, and helped navigate my family through very difficult waters.

It is the first and only place where I talked with my mother’s psychiatrist. “Is it nature or nurture?” I asked him. He laughed a bit and said, “if we knew that we could be of much more help to people. It says in your mother’s notes that without medication, she would need…..”

And with that I close. It was clear to everyone in our family that Mother had to have her medication. Without it, her life would spin totally out of control. In turn, it would affect her entire family.

While the holidays are filled with warm fuzzies for many folks, those who suffer from mental illness are sometimes overwhelmed with it all. If you know someone in crisis, please reach out to your community. If there is not a Scheib type center, maybe you could help start one.

Thank you, Katy. Thank you, Buck. Thank you Dr. ___ but most of all, thank you Scheib Center for being there for the community. We need more places like yours.

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Trauma and Play

The idea of two diametrically opposed words has been in my thoughts.

I believe it is essential for anyone who has been through any kind of trauma to play. Yes, play. I just listened to Brene Brown’s podcast on spotify https://open.spotify.com/show/4P86ZzHf7EOlRG7do9LkKZ.

She says something really deep and something I’ve known about myself. We have to incorporate play into our lives. Brene said in her recent broadcast on “Unlocking Us” that she is not giving up pickle ball when things get tough. I hear you, girl.

I was so fortunate that while I was going through traumatic events in my childhood, I had a bicycle and rode around my safe neighborhood. The kids in the area played softball in the street. We played Red Light, Green Light. We stayed out till dark and just played. We had fun. That may have been part of what saved me.

Even today, I make time for play. I play cards, penny poker, liverpool, gin rummy, joker….you get the idea, anything fun! As crazy as it sounds, I know this about me. I need to focus on fun things that have absolutely nothing to do with writing, trauma or deep stuff. I suspect research shows that we need it.

I love the Christmas season, but I know that it can be stressful. Expectations are high. “Must find the perfect gift,” your brain has probably told you a 1,000 times. No, really, you don’t. Sit with that thought. You do NOT have to purchase the perfect gift. In fact, I would argue there is no perfect gift.

“And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

The Grinch

My favorite gifts are ones that money cannot buy. Reading with a child, sharing a butterfly kiss, spending time with friends and family, sharing your faith and what keeps you going…..these are treasures. I hope you find them during this season. I hope you play.

Here’s a paradox: I have little money but enough to get by; however, I’m as rich as I’ve ever been.

Faith and Hope

I would not be alive today if not for my faith in God. He sustains me. He holds me up when I cannot stand. He wraps His loving arms of hope around me.

I recently wrote about my mother running down the street with only a slip on. It felt very freeing to share that. Isn’t it amazing when we share our secrets, and the world doesn’t come to an end. We share our uttermost thoughts, and God loves us through it.

As a child and later as a teenager, I turned to the Bible for answers. I could have turned to drugs and other destructive addictions.

I walked a different path, and it has made all the difference.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44272/the-road-not-taken

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Running with a Slip On

At this writing, I will soon be 65. I was probably 8 years old and in the 3rd grade when the following happened, I’ve never written it down, nor have I told anyone. Strange because I think of it often.

I am not certain if I wanted to stay home from school on this particular day, or if I came home from lunch and Mother agreed I could stay home. I was not physically harmed in any way, but what I witnessed has left scars of a different kind. It revolves around hangers and since I see them in my closet every day, they are reminders, some would call them triggers.

On this particular school day, Mother and I were reading children’s books in bed. I remember she had her slip on. My school clothes were on. The phone rang a few times. Mother did not answer. Since I wasn’t at school and should have been, they must have called my father who taught 6th grade at a school about 30 minutes away.

While we were reading a book, my father came in the door shouting. “Where is Nancy?!!!” It alarmed my mother so much that she jumped out of bed and began screaming. There were wire hangers on the bed, and in the melee, one of them caused a very small amount of blood on her back. My father yelled, but he was never, ever violent. He never physically assaulted my mother who had paranoid schizophrenia.

I remember my mother exiting through the front door with her slip on. She went screaming down the street, “He’s going to kill me! He’s going to kill me!” She was shouting so that all the neighbors could hear. My father hollered and waved at me, “Go back to school!!”

How could I leave this intense scene? I’m sure I stayed to see what would happen next. Again, my father screamed, “Go back to school!!” I left and walked myself back to my classroom. My classmates and teacher were curious about where I had been. I most likely did not hear anything the teacher said the rest of the day. I was probably in shock. Later that day, I was called to the principal’s office where my father was seated. I’m sure he told him about the events that had happened. Mr. Goodman, the principal, probably didn’t want to know. I’m not sure I would have if I were the principal.

I don’t remember what happened next. I suspect my mother had to go to the local psych ward, and my father and I marched through the following days as best we could. I don’t remember ever discussing it with anyone, including my parents.

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.

B I N G O

Below is a true story. All of the names have been changed.

My work day started as I began to listen to my boss’s recording. I took dictation and the earplugs were all set to go. I turned on the machine and heard “Joe” say, “Take a letter. B I N G O.” I took out the earplugs and quietly laughed. Joe was always very serious and professional, especially with any recordings he made. Intrigued, I listened further. I could hear his children in the background as he continued to record nonsensical information, which was not the norm. I put the dictation aside and discovered a little later that Joe was walking towards me with an empty glass. He had an entourage. He said, “Get me water from the good fountain.” I looked at the assistant seated next to me and said, “The good fountain? Is there something I need to know?” As the day unfolded, I learned that Joe was having a nervous breakdown. He was whisked away to a nearby mental facility where he stayed for three weeks. The firm I worked for in the 90s had 4 floors filled with the brightest and smartest attorneys. They were mostly white conservative males. Joe was no exception. He had always been kind and professional to the staff and his colleagues. He had an excellent reputation, and it was an honor to work for him. I talked with Joe’s wife who sounded like she was trying to keep herself together while caring for Joe. I walked around the hallway and heard one of his younger colleagues shout into the phone, “They just took Joe to the mental hospital!” I closed “Sean’s” door. I did not close it gently. Joe deserved the respect that he had always shown others. He stayed at the hospital and received the help he needed. I learned he was bipolar. The first day he came back to work, he looked a bit like a fish out of water. As the days and months went on, Joe conquered any stigmas that mental illness may have had. As the years went on, he became managing partner of the very large, very successful law firm. He could have given up, but he chose to move forward. In doing so, he helped all of us follow his lead.

“Joe” died a few years ago from cancer.

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