“I’d rather have ______ than bipolar disorder.”

It wasn’t that long ago, I remember literally listing the illnesses I would rather have than bipolar disorder.  I was driving home, my body slumped heavily into the seat of my car, depression had sunk its’ claws in a few days before.  I felt desperate and scared.  I’ve lived this long enough to know how it works, and the only mystery is how bad will this cycle be?  Will it be as bad as the one two years ago when I ended up in the hospital?  I almost jumped in the river that time.  Or will it be as bad as the one last July?  I thought I was going to have to quit my job and go into one of those three month programs at some expensive ranch.  It was awful.

My dark thoughts circled, my hands hung from their perch on the steering wheel, my dead, hopeless eyes stared ahead.  “I’d rather have one of my arms cut off”,  I thought.  “I’d rather lose one of my eyeballs or not be able to hear anymore”, I sulked.  “Diabetes would be better than this, or thyroid disease.”  “If I had breast cancer, I could do chemo and lose my breasts and my hair, but I’d get better.  That wouldn’t be as bad as what I have.”   The losing limbs was a theme, “I’d rather have one of my feet cut off than have bipolar disorder.”

That cycle ended and I’ve felt better for several weeks now.  I forgot about my grim analysis of my horrible life and my torturous illness.   Until now.

One of my best friends had cancer last year.  It was thyroid cancer, and everyone said, “If you’re going to get cancer, that’s the one to get.  It’s the easiest to treat.”  So, she had her thyroid removed, had to take some kind of radiation pill, and take medication for the rest of her life.  It was scary, but she’s tough, and she got all better.

She got pnuemonia several weeks ago and it turned into a collapsed lung.  They hospitalized her, treated her, and sent her home in two days.  She was still in pain.  She could hardly talk she was so out of breath.  Then her stomach bloated, so she went to the doctor.  They sent her by ambulance to Vanderbilt.  She has lesions on her spine, a suspicious lymph node, and possible thyroid cancer residue.  Something about her lung is suspicious, and I don’t even know what else.   All everyone whispers is, “They’ve mentioned the C-word”.

My friend is 45 years old.  She has three daughters, and a grandson.  Two are grown, but her youngest is 13.  She’s divorced, and has raised the three girls by herself.  The youngest, though.  She’s a momma’s girl.  She’s just now willing to spend the night with friends every now and then, and at home she sleeps in the bed with her mom.  She’s a good, sweet kid.

I’m scared for my friend.  I’m scared we’re going to lose her.  I’m afraid that little girl is going to lose her mom.  I can’t even wrap my head around this, it doesn’t seem real.  Last night I remembered that day I took that depressing car ride home.  Then I sadly thought, “I bet she’d rather have bipolar disorder”.

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Psychiatric Help

My beloved therapist of seven or eight years lived over an hour away. She didn’t charge me for our sessions (I guess I was a charity case), so I felt guilty and didn’t call her unless it was an emergency.

My husband and I were having major problems in our marriage, so we decided to go to couple’s counseling. We got a name from a friend of a licensed clinical social worker, and went to a couple of sessions. Lori was her name, and she was okay. The sessions weren’t very helpful for our relationship, since looking back I can see that I was manic at that time. No one could convince me that he and I were supposed to be together. I remember the counselor giving us homework, and we were to list the things we liked about the other person. I literally could not come up with one thing. I can’t even imagine that now.

Anyway, one day at work I began to have some anxiety. It was early, and I had a book full of appointments for the rest of the day. Anxiety ballooned into panic, and I started to hyperventilate and freak out. The only thing I knew to do was call the new therapist who was close by for an emergency session. She agreed to see me, and I jetted over there.

I sat down in her office and unloaded. I cried and choked out the words to my tales of woe. I remember telling Lori how much pressure I felt from my marriage, and how it was affecting our son, and our families. I felt bad for the pain I was causing my husband. I had also gone in with two other girls and opened a salon, so I had all of these work pressures. I had so much guilt about everything.

When I got all the words out, I looked at Lori and her eyes were kind of wide and she seemed alarmed. I must’ve looked quite the mess. We talked a minute about what I told her, and she told me that I needed to go home and rest, that I was too upset to go back to work. What?! Go home? I explained to her that I had people counting on me at work. People had made appointments with me ahead of time, and they expected me to be there for their service. Not to mention, I needed the money. The thought of not going back to work was not even an option I would consider.

Lori didn’t let it go. She tried several times to convince me to cancel the rest of my day, and the more she pushed, the more adamant I felt about what I felt I needed to do.

I went back to work. As I was driving back to the salon, I remember thinking how pressured I felt from Lori. I got where she was coming from, but the way she kept pushing was too much in my opinion. One of the whole reasons I went to see her was because of all the pressure I felt from every direction, and then my therapist is in my face, almost bullying my to do something I told her adamantly I didn’t want to do.

The next week, I broke down and went to see my long-time therapist, Mary. I told her what happened, and she waved her hand dismissively, “You’re a venter, Sammy. As soon as you get it all out, you feel better, and then you can go about your day.” Wow! She was right! I am a venter! It’s like boiling water inside me, the bubbles get bigger and the water rolls violently until I take the top off and let the pressure escape! Then I can breathe again, I can function.

Lori didn’t know this about me, of course. We hadn’t been working together long enough. She had the best of intentions, but her persistent pressuring rubbed me the wrong way. I knew I wouldn’t go see her again for one on one counseling. She backed me into a corner and put me on the defensive. I didn’t like how that felt at all. She could’ve suggested that I cancel my day and go home. We could have briefly discussed it, and that should’ve been it.

I simply didn’t call her again for any more sessions. No hard feelings. Just business. It’s kind of like my business. If I don’t hear from someone again after doing their hair, I don’t get upset or mad. I figure we were just not a good fit, or their cousin just got out of beauty school, or they don’t have the money, or my hours don’t work with their schedule. A million things!
If I got my feelings hurt every time this happened, I’d have a lot of hurt feelings. It’s part of any service industry, and if the service provider is a professional, they understand how it works. If you run into a therapist or doctor that gives you grief or crap about switching to another provider, run far away! That’s not professional or ethical, and it’s just not good manners! That shows insecurity with their practice, and I don’t want anyone that’s insecure messing with my medication or my therapy. Who knows what else is going on with them.

You are not a prisoner to one particular doctor or therapist. You don’t owe them anything. If it’s not working for you, move on. Find someone who is a good fit. It might take several tries, but it’s important. It’s your life we’re talking about!

The Right Therapist?

Is Mood Tracking Helpful?

iMood app


There’s an app I found called iMood Journal that I installed on my phone. I’ve had other mood trackers in the past, but I like the features this one has. You can pick your mood throughout the day as many times as you want. There are ten moods to choose from, and you can customize what they are. Also, you can make as many entries, thoughts, or notes as you like, as often as you like. Your moods will show up as a daily graph, so you can see how they are fluctuating.

The feature that I really think is cool though, is you can highlight anything in your notes by putting a hashtag symbol in front of the word(s). You might suspect that alcohol is a trigger, so #alcohol or #gotdrunk. You may have certain stressors like, #inlaws, or #exams. The app will keep up with all of the hashtagged words. In my case, if I have a headache or migraine on a particular day, I type #headache in my daily notes. Then, when I look at my summary or history later on, I’ll be able to see if there are any cycles or patterns that are related to headaches. This helps me determine whether or not headaches are a trigger! Brilliant! #Startedperiod is a hashtag that I’m trying to keep track of. I’m hashtagging all kinds of stuff to see if I can detect any triggers that I wasn’t aware of. The other mood tracking apps that I’ve used didn’t have this feature, and I think it’s a great idea.

I was thinking about why it is so important to me to do things like this. This is my third mood tracking app for my phone. Not too long ago, I typed a big list of all of my moods, and wrote detailed descriptions of each one. Then I listed them in their usual order of what usually comes first, then next, etc. I don’t know about ya’ll, but my moods don’t just consist of happy to sad, manic to depressed, and just the varying levels of intensity of these moods in between. I labeled one of my moods in the app as “Bitch”. When I’m at work, my dear friends and coworkers piss me off constantly. Normally, the little things they do don’t bother me in the slightest. Then, one day, they make me so mad I want to punch them in the face. When I look at them, I feel resentment and anger. I almost closed my business one time when I was in this phase.

There’s also, “Little Bit Down”. This usually comes before Bitch. This is where I’m unmotivated to do anything whatsoever. I want to lay on the couch all day every day. I’m not necessarily sad, but I’m definitely not happy. I beat myself up during this mood, because I feel guilty for being so unproductive and lazy. It sneaks up on me, and I don’t really recognize it as a mood, and part of a bipolar mood cycle.

I think that tracking my moods and trying to figure out patterns and triggers helps me to feel like I have some sort of control over what is happening to me emotionally. Obviously, I can’t actually control whether or not a mood cycle starts, but being even slightly aware of what is happening to me, when it’s happening, makes me feel less helpless. And less hopeless. If I can recognize that usually my “Little Bit Down” cycle lasts about three days, and it’s my bipolar disorder that is causing it, then I know what to expect. I feel less “crazy”, out of control, and guilty. I can say to myself, “Hold on, only a little bit longer. It’s not your fault.” I’ve talked to my husband about this, and explained to him that I needed him to remind me that I’m in a cycle, and it’s only temporary. I need to hear that I’m not lazy, and it’s not my fault. If I want to lay on the couch for a couple of days, then lay on the couch! It’s not the end of the world! Sometimes when you’re in the middle of your cycle, you don’t identify it as being in your cycle. You just think you suck.

Hopefully tracking my moods and triggers this way will help me manage my disorder a little better. Not surprisingly, I’m also a list maker and obsessive organizer. I could just be trying to neatly organize my cycles into neat little categories and lists because I’m just weird! If that’s the case, so be it. But I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I’ll do anything to feel better.

No Talking Allowed!

Has anyone noticed that no one wants to talk about your mental illness with you? Is it just me?

My experience has taught me that no one wants to hear me talk about it, not even a little. If I do mention something, it is usually abruptly blown off. It’s like you brought up an uncomfortable religious or political subject in an inappropriate place, like a dinner party, or a girl scout meeting. It sucks when you need to talk about whatever issues you’re having with your friend(s), and you can tell they really don’t want to go there. I wonder if that’s one of the reasons why blogging is so popular for people like us, because we can talk to people that actually listen, and we can relate to each other. These anonymous friends make us feel heard and validated, and they often offer valuable advice.

I’ve thought a great deal about the reasons friends don’t like talking about mental illness directly one on one. Of course, there’s a million reasons, but a few things stand out.

1. They don’t want to acknowledge that you have a legitimate illness. If you do mention your depression or manic symptoms, they immediately shut you down with, “That happens to me all the time.”

2. They think you could do more to control how your illness affects your life. “You need to just get out of the house and go walking or something! You just need some sunshine! You just have to make yourself!”

3. Many friends simply don’t understand to what degree mental illness effects your life. They can be ignorant of the wide range of symptoms and struggles we face on a daily basis.

4. Maybe your friend is a little bit afraid of the fact that you have a mental disorder, and their way of dealing with it is to not talk about it. They could be scared that something will happen to you, and it’s beyond their control.

5. Friends can be self-absorbed sometimes, as can we. They might not be picking up on the cues that you need to talk.

6. Some people think that others use illness as a tool for attention. Maybe you’re just talking about your bipolar disorder because you want attention.

If anyone has any other reasons why it’s hard for friends to talk to us about our mental illnesses, I’d love to hear them! It sure can hurt a gal’s feelings though.

First of all, I am not a mental health professional or expert!  This is just my personal experience.

   My psychiatrist and I literally Googled EMDR Therapist in my area to find someone for me to see.  She didn’t know anyone, and at the time she only had a handful of patients that had ever gone to EMDR therapy, and they weren’t close enough to where I lived.  I was at the “I’ll try anything” stage of bipolar depression at the time.  The therapists popped up on the screen and my doctor looked at all of their backgrounds, education, and credentials.  We settled on one and I made an appointment for the next week.

   The basics:  My EMDR therapist charged $60 per hour.  My insurance did not cover it, so I paid check or cash each session when we were done.  Every session lasted an hour, except one went over and lasted two hours because she didn’t have another appointment booked after me.  When each session was over, we would schedule another one two weeks out.  I probably worked with her for four or five sessions.

Important note:  Schedule your session to be the last thing you do that day.  If possible, don’t try to go back to work, or go grocery shopping, or anything.  You will be exhausted.  Mentally you are completely and emotionally drained.  I would go home after each session and lay down and take a long nap.  EMDR is hard.   Know that it sucks and you’re going to cry while you’re there, and you will have to think about the worst things that have ever happened to you.  But when you are done with it, you will be free.

   I’m going to try to condense this so it’s not five pages long, but hopefully you can still understand the process and know what to expect.

   My therapist’s name was Virginia.  She was polite and soft-spoken, and she had typical therapist’s office.  She asked me to sit down and tell her what was going on.  It was awkward trying to sum up everything that had been going on for years, but I did the best I could.  She asked a few questions, and then she asked me what was the biggest problem.  She asked if I would like to work on that today and I said yes.  If I had said no, I’d rather work on some other thing, I think that would’ve been fine too.  Let’s say I had five traumatic events that I had problems dealing with.  It was my choice of where to begin or what we would work on during a session.

   She explained what the process was and how it worked.  Basically, EMDR takes the traumatic memory from the part of the brain that FEELS, and moves it to the part of the brain that thinks about the event “in the narrative.”  It’s kind of like being able to see and remember what happened from a distance in your mind, without the emotions of reliving it as if it is happening at that moment in the present.  That is what PTSD feels like.  You aren’t just remembering the trauma…you are reliving it, experiencing the feeling of it.  After EMDR, you can still remember it, talk about it, and even feel sadness.  You’re not emotionless.  But you don’t go into that panic, fear, flashbacks, or any of the horrible emotions of post-traumatic stress.  The way it works is the patient focuses on something slowly moving repeatedly left to right.  This process, along with the therapist’s guided talking and focused questions, is how the trauma shifts from the FEELING part of the brain over to the NARRATIVE part.  Virginia said the memory is “stuck”, meaning, it stayed in the FEELING part of the brain.  We are simply helping it move.

   I’m going to illustrate how we worked on one memory that I had been dealing with for over twenty years.  This was the first of many, I just want you to get an idea.  Virginia handed me two little round discs that were attached to cords.  Like earbuds.  She had a little remote attached to the end of the cord.  She put a disc in each hand and told me to hold it between my thumb and index finger.  They were vibrating lightly, one vibrated then the other.  I sat back and got comfortable.  She turned the discs off for a moment and she asked me to think of a calm, happy place that makes me feel at peace when I think of it.  I said a lake house.  That’s what she wanted me to think about if I got too upset, or uncomfortable, or wanted to stop.  Then I closed my eyes and thought about that place for a while.

   She asked me to talk about the incident.  I took a deep breath and began, “Someone knocked on my door.  I opened it and it was my cousin Donnie and our preacher Gary.  I was smiling and saying Hi!  My grandmother was staying with my brother and I because our parents were on a weekend motorcycle trip with their motorcycle club.  My grandmother came and stood next to me as I asked them what was going on?  They just stood there and looked at us and didn’t speak.  Their faces were weird, and they weren’t smiling.  I asked again what was going on, and then asked if something was wrong.  Donnie started to speak, he stuttered out ‘your parents.  It’s your parents.  There’s been an accident.’  I asked him, ‘Are they okay?’  He said nothing.  I asked him again, but louder.  He just shook his head and looked away.  Then I screamed hysterically, ‘Are they okay?’  Donnie said no.  They were gone.  I kind of remember my grandmother to my left sinking to the ground, and Donnie and Gary rushing towards her.  My next memory is screaming.  I screamed and ran.  I ran down our stairs leading to the back door on the bottom floor.  I was screaming and running through the back yard and down our huge hill, and up another hill to the road behind our house.  I was still screaming as I ran two blocks through backyards and driveways until I got to my boyfriend’s house.  I have no memory of anything after that.”

   It was so hard to get the words out, but I finally did.  I cried the whole time.   It was time for the back and forth part of the session.   I’ll go ahead and tell you that I decided I didn’t like the vibrating discs.  I found them to be distracting and I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying.  “No problem”, she said.  So instead of the discs, she scooted her chair up in front of me.  Her knees were probably a foot and a half, maybe two feet away from my knees.  Close, but not too close where I felt uncomfortable.    Then, Virginia holds one of her index fingers up about a foot away from my face.  She tells me to watch her finger as it goes left then right, left then right, like a clock pendulum.  I watch her finger and tried to concentrate, but it was kind of hard.  My mind was all over the place.

   She began to speak in a slow, hypnotic voice, “That was such an awful thing to go through.  You and your brother were so young.  Donnie and Gary shouldn’t have stood there in your doorway not answering your questions, making you ask again and again.”  She went on a few minutes like that, just kind of going over what I said and reaffirming how horrible it was.  It was strange, I admit.  I kept my eyes on her finger the whole time she spoke.  When she was through talking, she lowered her finger.  She asked me “What do you feel”?  I didn’t even have to think.  It was a feeling I knew well, and it hurt.  “Grief!”  I was crying hard.  She then asked me where I felt it in my body.  Did I feel it in my stomach, or my chest?  My throat?  I thought a second, and I definitely felt it in my chest.  It burned like fire.  “Okay”, she said.  “Watch my finger again.”

   Virginia softly spoke her steady back and forth.  She talked about the pain in my chest, how I ran all the way to my boyfriend’s house.  She repeated that I shouldn’t have had to experience that pain, you weren’t supposed to lose your parents.  I stared at her finger again until she was done.  She asked me again how I felt.  I still felt grief and pain, and I cried.  But, then she asked me if the feeling in my chest had moved?  Huh?  Did it move?  I had to think and really pay attention to my body.  To my astonishment, it had moved!  It was a tiny bit lower, I thought.

   We did this exercise four or five times.  Each time the pain moved a little lower in my body, and became less intense.  Something else happened that I didn’t expect…a few times we would stop and talk a minute between the finger waving part.  She would ask me if I remembered anything or felt anything different.  If so, I would tell her.  I had a few memories come to light, or something would occur to me that I never had thought of before.  We would talk about these things, and if she thought it was beneficial or relevant, she would insert them into the things she said while she waved her finger.  For example, it occurred to me how hard it must’ve been for Donnie to come to our house and tell my grandmother, his first cousin that he’d been close to his whole life, that her son and his wife had died.  He was probably scared for one thing, because she was old and her health was not good at all.  I could never see or consider anything like that before.  The plain simple facts as I always knew them was what I told Virginia at the beginning…what they did and said at my front door, and me screaming and running.  I had nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, and my only escape was knocking myself out with sleeping pills.

   The goal is for that bad feeling that you have in your body, to move downwards and finally out to where you can’t feel it anymore.  Literally, every time we would stop, the feeling would not only be less intense, but it would have moved lower and lower, until finally, it was gone.  It may take one session, it may take eight.  It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever done.  When I left that day, I thought how stupid it was and I knew it didn’t work.  But the next couple of weeks, I noticed that I could think about that event and not start crying, or hyperventilating.  I could talk about that moment without feeling intense emotional pain.  I frequently had impulses to scream my head off, and I didn’t feel that anymore.  I didn’t have flashbacks.  I still felt a sense of sadness because I missed my mom and dad, and they died a tragic death.  But, it was over twenty years ago.  Suddenly I could think about it like it was twenty years ago, instead of like it happened yesterday.

   After we tackled several things related to the first session, I told Virginia that I was going to take a break from our meetings.  I was tired and I had worked hard!  It’s very difficult reliving the most traumatic and painful events of your entire life.  She agreed and said to give her a call when I was ready to tackle some more issues.  I called her about four months later and we started on the next item on the list.  I can honestly say that EMDR has changed my life for the better.  My chest doesn’t feel like it’s on fire anymore, and I don’t always feel like screaming.
IMG_3097

What to Expect at EMDR

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Corn field in late summer

I pulled out onto the highway and headed east towards town. It was a beautiful fall day, and it felt good to have the windows down as I crept faster, pushing the speed limit just a little. Ahead I noticed several brake lights. It looked like four or five cars were stopped cold, but it was impossible to tell how many there actually were. The road hung a sharp left hook, blocking my view from what was around the corner. I had no choice but to stop behind the last car, and wait for the gentleman in the orange vest to wave us on.

We sat for a while, wondering what could be going on around the curve. My imagination took me down the road to the little country store where the old man lived. There were a couple of houses here and there, but we were out in the country. It was mostly pastures and farmland. It was a gorgeous stretch of highway. Many convertibles and motorcycles came through here on scenic road trips on pretty afternoons like this one.

All of a sudden, a loud roar beckoned the spectators to look up to see a Life Flight helicopter make its’ way downward, then over and behind the trees. Oh no, it must be a wreck! We waited longer until finally the helicopter rose into the sky, then out of sight. The man in orange started to wave his arms, indicating that traffic could slowly makes its’ way down the highway. Everyone’s cars slowly crawled forward, their steering wheels rotating to the left. We all finally made our way around the curve to where all of the activity had been taking place.

At the end of summer, all of the cornfields have been cut, leaving endless parallel rows of calf high, half dead corn stalks. We came to one of these fields on the left side of the road. That was the scene of the accident. There were emergency workers everywhere, and more people in orange vests, and in the middle of the field there was a large mangled ball of red metal. Its’ size was the only indicator that suggested the red mound nestled in the short, brown stalks was a motorcycle. Not far from the ball was a pile of things that were all different colors. I assumed those were from the poor driver. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could survive an accident like that. I followed the other drivers past the scene, and somberly made my way to work.

That evening, as the sun was beginning to sink towards the tree line, I drove west down Highway 7 towards home. As I approached the countryside near this morning’s accident, I felt a knot form in my stomach as I recalled the scene. I wish I knew if the rider survived or not. I stopped at the little country store on my way home to see if anyone had news about him. No one did.

The cornfield was in sight on my right. It looked as if nothing had ever happened. Except, wait! There was a spot of colors in the middle of dusty browns. I drove closer and closer, and to my surprise, it was the pile of the rider’s things just sitting there. It looked like there could be five or six items there! Did it belong to the motorcycle rider? Was he alive? Would he want his stuff back? What if he was dead? Wouldn’t his family want his things? Well, the accident just happened this morning. I’m sure they (whoever “they” are), will be back to collect everything from the scene of the accident.

Every day I drove by that field, and every day I felt sick to my stomach when I saw that pile. On the third day after the accident, it stormed all day. Everything was getting drenched, and all I could think of was his family. I asked everyone I knew what they thought about it. Didn’t they think his family would want that stuff? We all agreed that it was weird that it was all left there. I wondered, what if his wallet is in there? What if his favorite necklace or watch is laying there getting ruined? What if he had pictures, or a favorite jacket? I would want that stuff! Hell, I got that stuff! I guess that’s why this hit home with me, because I remember getting things back from my parents’ motorcycle wreck. It was hard, but I’m so glad we got those items back! I wouldn’t want them to be rotting in some field in the rain! That pile of stuff was killing me.

Yes, I did it. One afternoon on my way home, I pulled over on the side of the road next to that cornfield. My heart was beating so fast. I was choking on sobs. I was scared. What if there was blood? What if I saw something horrible and I would start having flashbacks again? It didn’t matter. I had to get those things and get them back to the family. I could not drive and see them laying there one more time. It just wasn’t right.

I carefully navigated my way around the stiff, dead stalks to the pile. When I got there, I can’t help but notice how neatly everything was folded and stacked. They were clearly clothes, and I leaned down to see what was there. There was a black, leather motorcycle jacket, a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, some underwear, and one tennis shoe. All of the clothes had been expertly cut off of the man. The slices made through the clothing were straight and precise. I didn’t linger. I picked up the clothes, grabbed the shoe and headed back to my car. My whole body was shaking, and tears were clouding my vision. I put the man’s things in the trunk of my car and sat in the driver’s seat. I didn’t exactly know what I was going to do yet…I hadn’t planned it out this far.

I hadn’t been sitting for more than ten seconds when my cell phone rang. It was my brother. Of all the people that I needed to talk to at that moment, it was him. Later, I always felt like it was no accident that he called right then. He gave me his cheerful greeting and then asked to be filled in when he could tell I was upset. It was a weird, long story to fill him in on, how I was sitting next to a cornfield with a dead man’s clothes from a motorcycle wreck in my trunk. He said, “Tracey, listen to me. This is not something that you are responsible for, even though I understand why you’re doing it. I want you to call the sheriff’s department, tell them what’s going on, and ask them what to do with the clothes. Don’t go through his things trying to figure out who he is or anything. The sheriff’s department will probably want you to just drop the stuff off to them. Okay? It’ll be fine. I love you and it’ll be okay. They’ll get the stuff back to his family.”

He made a lot of sense. I called the sheriff’s department and sure enough, they said I could drop it off at their office. I turned my car around to head back towards town. Predictably, I am getting so upset, that I can hardly control myself. I’m sobbing, I’m shaking, and I didn’t want to go into the sheriff’s office like that. They’d think I was a nutjob!

I had an idea. I pulled into my in-laws’ driveway and am so relieved to see my father-in-law outside. I got out of my car and ran over to him, blubbered out what has happened, what needs to happen, and that I just don’t think I can do it! He didn’t hesitate. He followed me over to my car, and he lifted out the clothes and the shoe. Then he found a big, plastic bag and put everything in there. The clothes were still a little wet from the storm a couple of days ago. He told me he’d go right away, and I tearfully thanked him. I watched him leave and then went inside their little country house, and made my way to one of the spare bedrooms. I laid down and cried like it was my daddy’s bike out there. Then I fell asleep.

A deep voice woke me up. I had no idea how long I had been sleeping. I was in a daze. My father-in-law was back, so I hopped off the bed and ran out to see if he found out anything. I hoped so much that the rider was alive! I knew it was a long shot, but you never know!

The big smile on his face told me what I was dying to know. He said, yes, the man was alive and he was in stable condition at Vanderbilt hospital! I didn’t recognize the man’s name, but my father-in-law said that the people at the sheriff’s department were grateful, and that they would definitely get the motorcyclist’s things to his family.

I was so happy! I have no idea how that man survived that crash, but I’m so glad he did! I somehow felt connected to this mystery person, and it mattered to me that he was going to make it. Those clothes and things might not have any meaning to him or his family, and my efforts may have been in vain. That’s okay with me. I just wanted them to be able to have the choice. Keep them, throw them away…whatever you want to do. But they don’t belong in the middle of a dead cornfield on the side of the highway. Maybe it was just me being selfish. It was hard for me to see those clothes from a motorcycle wreck every single day. It was too familiar and painful. I wouldn’t want my family member’s stuff laying there. Would you if it was one of your family members?

A Neat Stack

Sushi.  That’s what we were picking up from my Aunt’s house.  Missy and I were driving over an hour to pick up my aunt’s Japanese Chin dog, Sushi.  Patricia said she didn’t have time for the dog, and it was so cute and good and she hated to neglect such a sweetie.  She told me he was pedigreed with papers and she paid $1200 for him.  I happily agreed to take him.  From the pictures, he was a cute little guy.

Missy only met my aunt one other time, so I was excited for her to get to spend the evening with her.  She was one of my oldest friends, so I was happy that they could really get to know each other.  Patricia was a hoot, and if you couldn’t have a good time with her, something was wrong with you, not her!

Aunt Pat was what I usually called her, and she was my deceased father’s sister.  She was five years older than he was, and was definitely the black sheep of the family.  Despite that, she launched a new company all by herself, and was very successful.  The house we were going to, was her new home out in the country, just outside of Nashville.  It was gorgeous inside and out.  We spent that evening out on her back patio that overlooked a beautiful koi pond. The pond was expertly landscaped with stones and plants, it had a waterfall, and at night, strategically placed lights gave it an intoxicating glow.

We met Sushi, and he was a cutie.  He was black and white, like an Oreo cookie.  He wagged his tail and said hello, then he was off to his little bed in the corner.  It didn’t take us but a few minutes to make it out to the patio.  We all smoked, we all drank, and we all liked to talk.  That’s what we did, for hours!  It was fun and I was tickled that Missy liked Patricia.  I knew she would.

Missy and I had been friends for so long, she knew almost everything about me.  She heard all of my family drama stories over the years, so she knew what the deal was with everyone.  Including Patricia.  But of course, when Aunt Pat talked and told stories, she pretended she had never heard them before.  After a couple of hours had gone by, it was obvious to me that Patricia had crossed over to “officially drunk.”  Besides the tell-tale slurring, she started talking about her father, my grandfather.  He was emotionally and physically abusive to her throughout her whole life.  To that day, he refused to acknowledge any of her accomplishments, he would only point out her shortcomings and bad decisions.  Which, granted, she had made some mistakes.  Boy, he would not let her forget them.  One of the biggest ones was that she had been married nine times in her 65 years.  Left home at 18 to marry the first one.  She was not good with men, obviously.  Each of her three sons had a different father.  She was abused by a couple of them, abandoned by a few, and it just didn’t work out with a few.  By this time, she hadn’t been married for a while, which she had decided was best.  I agreed with her!

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Drinks with the girls

 

Her dad did not agree with most anything she ever did, and he made no secret about it.  He would not tell her that he loved her, even when she would look him right in the face and ask him, “Do you love me?”  He would just look at her stone-faced, and not say a word.  She acted like it didn’t bother her, but as soon as she had a buzz going, that façade quickly melted away.  This 65 year-old woman with three sons, two grandchildren, a beautiful home, and a million dollar company, would start to cry and ask why didn’t her father love her?  It was so sad and it broke my heart.  It wasn’t my first night of drinks with her, so I wasn’t surprised she brought it up.

My dad, on the other hand, could do no wrong.  It was awkward as a young child, because even then I knew that my brother and I were being treated better than Patricia’s boys.  My grandparents always wanted to have separate Christmas’s so they could give us more presents than when we all got together with them.  They were much more involved with my father and his life than Patricia and hers’.  To her credit, I never saw her act out or be ugly to my dad, our mom, or us kids.  Even though she had to have known.  Even I knew when I was five.

****

After we talked about what an asshole my grandfather was for a while, she indicated that she wanted to tell me something.  I was confused by what she was saying, because she would say she wanted to tell me something, and then she would say that she wasn’t going to, and to just forget it.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Missy and I were laughing, Patricia was obviously just about as drunk as Cootie Brown.

Then, “All right, fuck it.  I’m just going to tell ya.  Bill’s been married before.”  Then she sat back in her chair and sighed, like she had been holding that in for decades.  She had been.

I just looked at her.  I was dumbfounded, frozen.  What did she say?  Bill, my father had been married before our mother?  That couldn’t be true!  They got married as soon as my mother graduated college.  He had just graduated from college too.  I never heard about any other marriages!  I wasn’t mad or anything, I was just surprised!

“Tracey, Grandmom and Pop made us swear not to tell you kids.  I’ve wanted to tell you this for over twenty years!  I mean, what’s the big fucking deal?  So, Bill’s been married before?  Who gives a shit?”

“No, I understand!  I’m not mad, I just have to wrap my head around it.  Let it sink in for a minute.  I just never, never expected you to say that!”  I tried to be nonchalant.”  I have to go to the bathroom, I’ll be right back.”

Holy shit, our dad was married before and everyone’s been keeping it a secret from us!  Why would they do that?  I don’t give a damn if he was married before!  Hell, I’ve been divorced!  Their son, my brother has been divorced!  Half the people I know have been!  I remember grabbing each side of the sink, and looking at myself in the mirror.  I felt like I was in a dream.  Secrets?  Why the secrets?  That’s what I don’t get!

While I’m in the bathroom, Missy has been out on the patio with Patricia the whole time.  She told me later that Patricia was torn all to pieces.  She’d go back and forth from “I shouldn’t have ever told her.  Oh my God.  I messed up so bad!” to “Well, hell!  It’s her right to know!  They’re not little kids anymore!  My God!”  then back to “Lord, they’re never going to speak to me again.  Daddy made me swear I wouldn’t tell those kids about their dad.”

I’m back on the deck, having fully refreshed my beverage, and Patricia filled me in.  She said that right out of high school, he married some girl from his school named Linda.  It was no big deal, they were only married a couple of months.  But, at mom and dad’s funeral, Linda showed up to pay her respects.  Grandmom and Pop threw a fit and made her leave!  They wouldn’t let her sign the register, and they wouldn’t let her come anywhere near my brother and I.  They also tore up any pictures of Linda or of the two of them together, so we would never find them.

“What’s the big deal?” I asked.  “What do we care if he was divorced before he married mom?  We don’t care!  The only thing that bothers me is the great lengths everyone went to keep it a secret!  Good Lord!”

“I don’t know, Tracey.  I’m telling you, they are crazy.  I mean, I’ve been married several times, and they don’t mind telling everyone in middle Tennessee about that!  But I reckon, cause it’s Bill, they didn’t want to risk putting a blemish on his reputation.  Honey, I’m sure that your mom and dad were planning on telling you, they just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  If they had known that they were going to be gone…”

I stopped her there, and got up and gave her a hug.  She had black mascara running all down her face from crying.  It was obvious this was a huge burden for her.  She told me then to tell Grandmom and Pop that I knew and that she was the one who told me.  She said, “I don’t give a shit anymore.  They don’t love me no matter what I do, so what the hell?” then she chuckled.

On the way home Missy and I could hardly take a breath, we were talking so fast about what Patricia told us.  Sushi the dog was wandering around the back seat of my car, then he’d hop up on the console, then down to the floorboard where Missy’s feet were.  We were coming up with different scenarios that would explain why my grandparents did what they did.  We knew they were from a different generation, but to go to such lengths to cover up a three-month marriage didn’t make any sense!

We finally pulled into Missy’s driveway so I could drop her off.  We were both exhausted!  As Missy is reaching around to grab her purse, her cigarettes, and stuff, she noticed there were M&M’s in the floor.  I had one of those big bags of regular M&M’s that we snacked on during the trip to Patricia’s.  I turned the interior light on, and to our horror, we discovered that Sushi had eaten all of the M&M’s!  That was a lot of chocolate!  We both thought the same thing, “Won’t chocolate kill dogs?”  Oh Lord, I’ve killed Patricia’s $1200 dog.  She’ll be devastated!   Turns out, chocolate was no match for Sushi.  She was just fine!  Patricia lied about Sushi, though.  He wasn’t housebroken, good, or sweet.  She just didn’t want him anymore!  Dammit!  I really shouldn’t have been too surprised…I loved her, but I knew my aunt could be a real heifer when she wanted to!

I Just Wanted a Dog

A man with a white hat was standing in the crowd, holding a sign with our last name written on it. My husband and I walked over to him and we all gave introductions. He said he was Winston, and he would be driving us to our rental house. He led us to a van, helped us get our luggage in, and politely opened the door for me. After he was seated and buckled up, we were off. We were in Eluethera, a small island in the Bahamas. It was our second trip to the island, because we had fallen in love with it two years prior.

This time our rental house was close to the little village of Gregory Town, on the northern end of the island. Last time we were more centrally located in Governor’s Harbor. Winston talked a lot on our van ride to the house. Right away, he explained that Phillip was our caretaker for the house. He said that usually Phillip would have picked us up, but unfortunately, his sister passed away, and he was at the funeral. We were saddened by this news, but Winston assured us that Phillip would take care of us on the island while we were here. When we arrived to the house, Winston showed us where everything was and then gave us our keys and left. Phillip’s business card with phone number was on the table.

We were finally at our destination! We were exhausted from traveling, but excited to finally be on our vacation at long last. Obviously, the first thing we did was attempt to christen the couch in the living room. More accurately, the futon. My husband was planning on having sex at least twice a day, every day, and he wasn’t wasting any time!

After only a few minutes into vacation sex, someone started knocking on our door! Our house was practically in the middle of nowhere, there was only one house anywhere close to us. I ran into the bathroom and closed the door most of the way, open enough so that I could hear. I couldn’t hear anything however, but the man that was knocking was a masseuse looking for the client that hired him. What!? Ugh, wrong house, dude. Ok, that was weird, but he was gone.

We stripped down to our birthday suits and were determined to capture the mood again. We made sure all of the many windows’ curtains were closed before we proceeded. The futon was right next to the door, and it was sitting under three windows. Hell, there were windows all the way around…it was the beach! Five minutes later, someone was pounding on the door again!

I grabbed a throw blanket that was laying there and wrapped it around me, and ran to the bathroom again. My husband quickly yanked his shorts up before he opens the door a second time. Well, it’s Phillip! He wanted to introduce himself and tell us if there was anything we needed to give him a call. Now he had to go to his sister’s funeral.

That was nice of him to do. But, to say that the mood was over is putting it mildly. No way, no sir, let’s try again later when we’re pretty sure no one will come knocking on our door. We decided we’d unpack and get settled in before we ventured out.

We rented a car from the same guy who rented us the house, so a little later after we’d rested, we decided to drive around and see exactly where we were. Eluethera is a poor little island, and Gregory Town is one of the poorest. The little roads in the villages run this way and that way. There are run down houses that have barely withstood hurricanes, but lack of funds prevented their total resurrection. There were chickens and cats running around everywhere. Two years, and nothing had changed in Gregory Town as far as we could tell.

We topped a hill and when we headed downward, there were people standing around everywhere. We slowed to a crawl so as not to hit anyone, and we noticed that there were people filing out of a church building on the left side of the road. Everyone had on their best Sunday clothes, and we figured it out, “It’s Phillip’s sisters funeral!” Oh, man, that’s unexpected. We drive around on the skinny little road, trying to be respectful of the funeral goers. There were people in little groups and clusters all over the place, talking and visiting. Little girls with bows in their hair twirled around in their pretty dresses. Boys chased each other across the patches of grass that grew here and there.

We crept along, and I look up and notice, to our left (which is the side you drive on over there), there was a light-skinned black man with dread locks talking to three white men. He turned his head and casually glanced over at us as we slowly rode by.

“Oh. My. God. That’s Lenny Mother Fucking Kravitz.” I said incredibly.
“Are you sure?” my husband asked.
“Yep. I’m positive.” I said.

He had on pants that were blue, but not blue jeans. They were skinny, so they had that tight fit. He wore ankle boots that were a light leather, almost yellow-ish in color. His dreads were loosely secured in some kind of wrap or band, and he had on sunglasses that struck me as Hollywood style, if that’s a thing. I have no idea what kind of shirt he had on, I didn’t get to look long enough. He was talking to the only three white people in the whole place. They looked like some kind of music people, you know, agents, managers, etc.

We drove on by and decided that turning around and going back so that I could get a picture would be in bad taste, especially since it was a funeral.

“Lenny Mother Fucking Kravitz. I cannot believe we just saw Lenny Mother Fucking Kravitz.” I said an annoying amount of times throughout the day. But I couldn’t! This island was tiny and poor and the last thing you’d expect to see is a celebrity like him!

I did some looking, and apparently Lenny’s mother was from the Bahamas, though it didn’t specifically name Gregory Town where I looked. Also, we found out that there’s a nude beach on the island that you can only get to by boat. Guess what it’s called? Kravitz Beach! No, we didn’t go there! Ew!

When our vacation was over, Winston showed up to take us back to the airport. We chatted on the ride there, and eventually the subject of Phillip came up. We inquired about his well-being, since we hadn’t seen him since he knocked on our door and messed up our…well, you know. Winston said, “Oh, well, he be doing fine, yes. But he at funeral today. His cousin died.” Holy shit! Sister then cousin in the same week! That’s terrible! Maybe we should drive by and pay our respects? My husband narrowed his eyes, looked at me and mouthed, “No.”

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Tourists at a Funeral


Poop_Emoji_7b204f05-eec6-4496-91b1-351acc03d2c7_large   Monday morning as I was driving to work, I began to notice that some of the tell-tale signs of a mood cycle were revealing themselves. I thought about the weekend, and the week before, recounting all my activities and moods. I had a great weekend! I got a lot accomplished around the house, and I felt really good. Not too good, I had thought. I wasn’t racy, or speedy, I did have a lot of plans and thoughts on my mind, but I didn’t stay up until sunrise to work on them. I hoped my good mood was in normal range. But this morning, I felt off. I was in my head all the way to work, analyzing every thought and feeling. I was feeling alarmed because this could be the first indication that the depressive part of a cycle was beginning, and my “good weekend” was hypomania. I began to panic. I wondered how bad was this one going to be? Was it going to be a crippling depression? Would it be relatively mild, where I’m down for about two days, and then I’m on the way back to the land of the living?

My friends and I worked out a signal that if I was having a meltdown, and needed support, I could send it to them and they would know that it was very important and they would reach out to me. I told them how hard it was for me to call and express what was going on, so I didn’t ever call. My friend Missy said I should use the poo emoji. “Just text the poo emoji and we’ll know and we’ll call right away!” Genius! I did feel like shit, so it was extremely appropriate. I sent out the poo message. Within two minutes my phone rang, and I got to talk, vent my fears, cry, and express my anger. The anger that goes, “Why me? Out of all the people I know, I’m the only one that has to deal with this shit! I don’t understand why this is happening to me! It’s bad enough that my parents were taken away from me…but then, evidently the event triggered me to mentally suffer for the rest of my life! I can’t enjoy the good life that I have now!”

She listened and I felt better to get all of that garbage out of my head. I thanked her and hung up and tried to get it together for my first client.
What happened later that afternoon made me realize some things…

My last client of the day left me a message on our voicemail that she needed to cancel. She didn’t leave a reason. Then, a couple of hours later, she called and asked if I had given her appointment away, and if not, could she still come. I hadn’t, so I said of course she could. She was a referral, so I had never met her before. She shows up right on time, and immediately started apologizing for cancelling and then wanting in again. She talked about her day, and that it was so horrible, she didn’t think she could sit through her highlight appointment, but later, decided it might actually make her feel better. I didn’t ask why her day was horrible. I’ve learned that most people will tell you on their own if they want to talk about something, and it’s better not to ask. So, for over an hour, we just chit-chatted and small talked. We talked about where she worked, her husband, where she grew up, and all of the usual stuff. Then she started asking me questions. How many kids did I have? How old were they? What did they like to do? Did they work? Have girlfriends? Pretty common questions that I answer a hundred times a week.

I glanced at her in the mirror and to my surprise, her face was beet red and she was crying! I immediately put my hands around her arms and gave her a sympathetic squeeze. I had no idea what she was crying about until she began her story with, “This is why I had such a bad day and almost didn’t come in!”
Her daughter was in her early thirties and had two babies under three years old, with two different daddies. One daddy gave up a baby and the other dad adopted that baby. Right now, that daddy is in jail for reasons she didn’t go into. She said that this daughter lived with her right now and did not have a job. But, then, she said, that wasn’t the worst thing right now. It was her 34 year-old son. He was addicted to drugs. She didn’t know exactly which ones, but he did have to be hospitalized for an over-dose on bath salts. He lived, but she said he’s not the same person as he was before. She said someone saw him shoot heroin, but only once, so she didn’t know if he was doing heroin. She didn’t know exactly what he was doing. He was wanted for shoplifting in the county north of us, and in our county, he has five DUI charges. That morning, he was to be in court for these charges, and she had signed his $10,000 bond. He did not show up to court, which makes her responsible for paying back the money. She said she knew she shouldn’t have signed that, but it was her son and she didn’t want him going to jail! Over and over she kept saying that she didn’t know where she went wrong as a parent. She said she can’t sleep at night, and she knew he was going to end up dead. The tears flowed, and she told me that no one knows what it’s like to have a child who is addicted to drugs. She said, “I look around at other families, and they seem normal! Their kids work and have families and are just regular people! Why is it that my family is so fucked up? My son will probably die because of drugs, has five DUI’s…who has five DUI’s? He’s already OD’d once. He doesn’t show up for court, leaves me owing $10,000, and he’s also wanted for stealing! And my daughter! She has two kids by two different men, who are both pieces of shit, one of them is even in jail! She’s 31 years old and she has to live with me because she’s so damn broke, she can’t even support herself! I just don’t understand why this is how my life is.”

Wow. I felt so bad for her! I can’t even wrap my head around what that must be like for her as a mother. After she left, I think my black, bitter heart felt a little lighter. I realized that my “cursed” life could be a hell of a lot worse! She even said the same words that I’d said earlier that day, asking “Why is my life not normal like other people’s?”

Yes, what I’ve been through has been terrible, and having this illness for the rest of my life is a hard thing to accept. But…I wouldn’t trade places with that lady for a billion dollars. So far, both of my kids fall into the normal, average category. I mean, they have their stuff, but I’m not losing sleep for fear of their death. I’m not paying money so that they can get out of jail, or begging them to go to rehab, or praying they survive their overdose. My son’s personality hasn’t gone from normal to brain dead because of bath salts. My God, that poor woman. I cannot even imagine her pain. I told her I’d pray for her that night, and I’ve prayed for her every night since.

Let me assure you, I’m not so naïve as to think that my kids could never follow similar paths as hers. They could, just like anybody else’s kids could. If that does happen, well, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. For now, however, I’m going to try to count the blessings I do have instead of just counting the burdens.

The next couple of days I felt fine. I do think I’m headed slowly into a depressive state, but I’ll deal with what comes. When I’m beating myself up and cursing my luck though, I’m going to try and think of my client and remind myself that it could be so much worse. Additionally, if I really need some support, all I have to do is send out that text of that little picture of poo!

Cancellation

Every morning on my way to work, I stop at the same convenience store to get my drinks and snacks for the day. Four out of five of these days I participate in the dance of the swinging doors as I enter and exit the building. I imagine that all over the country, people hold doors for other people who are coming in or out of a building. But, us southern folks have turned it into a public display of not just manners, but character.
I don’t care how much crap you are holding in your arms, whether or not your feet hurt, or if you have a killer migraine. If you get to the door first, you had better push, or pull, and hold that door open for the person you spotted heading that way. Sometimes a door opener happens to have a lot of items in their hands, but this doesn’t excuse them from their civic and moral obligation to hold the door so that other people can go through the door in front of them. This means that sometimes they have to push and hold the door open with one arm, and they have to balance on one foot, because the exit door opens away from them! Finally, after all the people exit, this selfless individual will still attempt to one-arm hold the door for you. Unfortunately, they are now probably unintentionally blocking the doorway that you are trying to enter! It’s super awkward and everyone shuffles around and chuckles politely and apologizes. But, the most important thing is that they held the door! They are good people!!!
It should go without saying, but unfortunately it needs to be said for some people. If someone holds the door for you, you better say “Thank You” loud enough for them to hear. It is better to also look at them, make eye contact and smile! Nothing pisses me off more than when I stand somewhere holding the door for somebody when it’s 45 degrees outside because I have fucking class, for a person to just breeze right by me and not look at me or utter a word. They are just straight up trash! You want to scream at them, “You’re welcome, bitch!” Always thank the door holder!
The rules are pretty plain until you are in the situation of “Should I hold the door even though they are pretty far away or is it okay to let the door close?” I know we’ve all committed to holding that one door somewhere for someone, only to think a few seconds later, “Damn, I should’ve let the door go…they’re pretty far away and now I feel stupid standing here so long. But I can’t let go now cause then that’d be weird and rude. I’m just going to have to stand here and hold the damn door until they finally get here.” That person better really better say thank you in that circumstance! They usually do!
I think I’ve figured out a way to maneuver through this awkward open-door conundrum. When you reach the door that you are about to open and enter, and you look around and see a person coming who is a questionable distance away for door holding, follow this one simple rule: If you and the person walking towards the door make eye contact, you should hold the door. They’ve seen you. They know you could wait if you wanted to and if you do you are a really good person. However, if you look back and that person is looking down, or doesn’t make eye contact with you, you are free to enter the building and let the door gently close behind you. They were too far away! You are free of any guilt, obligation, and your integrity and good name are still in-tact.
My next post, I plan on discussing some other southern traditions/etiquette. If anyone wants to ask me anything about how we do things around here, I’d love to chat about it! I love how different parts of the country have their own unique and sometimes quirky way of doing things!

Hold that Door!