Monday, March 13, 2017

What's new is old......

Health care is a political football. It has always been a political football. The Trump team is fighting an old fight. At the heart of it, the whole discussion is about worth. Are human beings who are disadvantaged worth health care?  Are the elderly still useful? Does a lifetime of work and contributions to Social Security 'entitle' you to medical care during the time you are most likely to need it?  These are questions that will ultimately define our society. Are we a society that believes in the worth of human beings? Or is wealth the only measure of worth that we are willing to look at? I believe that the way that we answer this question will determine the survival of our country. What do you think? In my forays into opinion on social media, I read an interesting comment. One of my favorite singers, Bette Midler, commented that she thinks that the Republicans are trying to "cull the herd". In other words, those seen as not worthy should die quickly. Your pocketbook is the only evidence of your value.

I've spent a lifetime dealing with many seen as not being of value. Mentally ill human beings are flawed in society's view. While some mentally ill people do have some wealth, mental illness is an equal opportunity scourge, and many are poor. Those are the human beings seen as having no value. Many of my clients used social programs: SSDI, Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, and other programs that help people survive. I worked with a variety of human beings: Young, old, working, not working...mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and grandparents. I worked in a variety of settings, ranging from hospitals to programs providing people with case management in the community. I worked with people. Every one of them had worth. From the chronically and severely mentally ill  to those most likely to recover. I worked with addiction/alcoholism and many other mental illnesses.  I worked with those who were defined as criminal in our justice system. I worked with those dealing with Alzheimer's Disease. I worked with those who struggled with a disability. I was a job coach. Starting with Maxine, I learned. I was able to see past a condition and economics to their humanity. All of us should be able to do that. Unfortunately, we don't. That fact is where I current political stress comes from.

My blog is a platform. I'm more than willing to use it to advocate for human beings living with mental illness. My advocacy started with Maxine. It won't end until I die. Maxine, and others like her, have worth. I will continue to explore the relationship between stigma and violence.  I will explore the relationship between stigma and death. I believe, as a Jew, that it is incumbent upon me to do so. My relationship with God depends on it. I hope you will continue on the journey with me. Thank you for reading.......

Friday, March 10, 2017

Progress Report....

I've taken off a considerable amount of time from this blog. During that time off, I rested.  I needed time to just live.  You, clean house, love friends and family...just live. I also worked on creating a book based on this blog. The name of the book is :"Love Letters to Maxine: Essays about Mental Illness, Family, Love, and Survival".  As you know, I've written this blog to talk about what I've learned from a lifetime dealing with mental illness. My experience started with Maxine, my mother. Maxine was severely and chronically mentally ill. Throughout this blog, I've discussed my front row seat looking at how mental illness is looked at and treated in our society. I'm completing my first draft of the book, and I'm excited about moving forward with the project.

So, where do things stand? With encouragement, I've decided I need to reconnect with my audience. While taking the time off was necessary for me, it didn't help with my project. This blog is my platform. The blog, the book, and our conversations are really all for one purpose. That purpose is advocacy. I think I can safely say that mental illness has never been treated in the way that it needs to be. Stigma and lack of knowledge have combined to create this horrific system in which many people  don't have access to effective help. In recent years, people have been raising their voices in order to change that. I've had a strong sense of hope that we would eventually be heard and things would start to change. I'm not convinced that is true right now.

At this time in our country, all the progress that has been made regarding human rights generally, and the rights of mentally ill people specifically, is being undone. The raised voices are more important than ever. I'm convinced that my voice needs to be raised again and I need to develop my platform. I'm rested and ready to go. How about you?  Ready to work together?  I need to hear your voices more than ever. It's time to advocate.  It's time to create solutions. It's time to make some noise! Finally, we  need to love and nurture each other. That's more important even now.  Let's talk!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Why I Choose Healing and Recovery


As I live my life, I regularly experience situations in which my issues from living with Maxine are triggered. One of the most stubborn is one in which I’m triggered by women in positions of power or co-workers who are angry and controlling. This problem has come up over and over and heavily impacted my employment history. I’m not going to discuss the specifics of this, because it ends up being about people I currently need to deal with. My focus will always be on what is true about me in these situations. I know it has to be this way because I’m literally the only person I can change. When I lived with Maxine, I was living my day to day life with a woman who was basically in charge of my mood and quality of life. Her anger influenced every aspect of my existence. Since I was a child, she controlled every thought and experience. Her anger frightened and depressed me. I struggled with believing that I caused her problem.  So, Maxine’s behavior was of direct impact in my life. I realize that at that time, I was a child and unable to change the adults around me. I’m sure that you understand that too. It is fact. Children are kind of like little rag dolls who are thrown around and injured by forces beyond their control. I had no idea how to deal with Maxine at her worst. Sometimes I used my own anger to try to control her. It didn’t work. That usually resulted in more anger and name-calling. The result for me was fear and a feeling of powerlessness.


I also felt that way when I dealt with the bullying at school.  I took it on as somehow being my fault. I resorted to my own anger and tried to fight it. Or I was totally passive. I didn’t have any skills to deal with it appropriately. Maybe there really wasn’t an appropriate way to deal with it. For years, beyond the childhood trauma, I was consumed with anger about it. As I dealt with the fallout from Maxine’s behavior, I also had to work on feelings surrounding my schoolmates and their contribution to my misery. How did I deal with it? Avoidance. I left my high school and dropped any contact with any high school schoolmates. That was my effort at taking control and it was somewhat successful. If I’m not in contact with you, then I can’t be hurt. I ignored any efforts to contact me, which honestly were not very frequent.  I didn’t attend any reunions.


When I lived in San Antonio, Texas, I was thrown into a situation in which an old high school buddy was in a newspaper article concerning her family. I made an effort to contact her only because she had been such a kind human being during my childhood. We again established a relationship, which ended when she moved to Europe with her husband, and I went through my divorce. Years later, I found out that this woman died of breast cancer.  So, I was faced with this realization, at a time when I’d done much of my work healing from Maxine. The realization was this: You can’t escape pain through avoidance. My only hope was in healing myself. I really was grateful for the time that I had in San Antonio with this friend. I benefitted from the contact with her. And it wouldn’t have happened had I not taken a risk.


Because of that, I allowed myself to be contacted again when some high school ‘buddies’ reached out to me on Facebook. I was very selective in terms of who I was going to let into my life again. I was looking for healing, not further victimization, and there were some people who I remember as particularly cruel. I didn’t have any interest in finding out whether they had changed. I know how to protect myself now. This has been a rewarding decision. I now have friends who knew me back when. This has added to my life, not detracted from it.


I’ve also made strides in terms of how to handle situations in which a woman is nasty or controlling. There are bullies in adulthood also. I still tend towards that pattern of reacting with anger. But now I have an additional skill. I call it detachment. When people show me who they are, I respond in a self-protective way. I will use whatever tools I have available to me to deal with it. At work, I’ve addressed it with a supervisor. Then, eventually, I’m able to let it go. I also use my instincts to protect myself. When it happens over and over again, I recognize that there needs to be a limit. I’ve ended friendships over bullying behaviors. I don’t fall into the hopelessness that I experienced as a child and earlier in my adulthood. I simply let go and let God.


How does this relate to why I choose to recover? Recovery is about me.  It is about my safety.  It is about making changes in myself. It is about peace. It isn’t about revenge. It isn’t about living in the past. It isn’t about being consumed by hatred of people. It is about moving forward. Being stuck in my past is part and parcel of depression. If I take care of the biological issue, I still have lots of work to do. Today, I choose to do that work. One day at a time……

Saturday, June 11, 2016

From endings come beginnings......

When I look back on this blog, I really see a progression. Writing has truly enriched my life.  And helped me come to terms with Maxine. And my own illness. But I know when I've achieved completion. And I'm there. The problem has been figuring out an exit strategy. And because of a conversation with a 17 year old friend yesterday (Thank you, Riley!) I have one. First, the book is still the end game.  I want to hold this story in my hands before I die. I have had many set backs on the way to that goal.  Equipment own in general. But I can't fight those things by saying the same things over and over.

My problem has been that I have loyal readers.  And I don't want to lose you while I'm figuring out how to complete the book.  You enrich my life.  You have given me the motivation to keep writing.  And I literally cannot see accomplishing my end game without you. So, here is the plan.  I will keep the space alive by re-posting articles.  I have over 450 to choose from.  Most of you haven't been with me that long. If I have something new to say....I will. And I plan to rely on you in many ways.  I need your encouragement. I need you to hang with me.  At some point...I may need you to help me publicize fundraising efforts.  (You know I need editing!)

I believe in this project because I have this urge to pull the story together now.  I'm not scared.... I'm enthusiastic. I just need to get through the complications.  Just like I did with the depression and my move to Tennessee.  No big deal. I can do it. But I need your support.  Are you with me?  Please let me know.  Sending much love.........

Thursday, June 9, 2016

There but for the grace of God.... or why we are all potential addicts....

I have a wonderful and amazing friend who has accomplished things and moved in circles I can only be shocked at.  Maureen Herman, formerly of the band Babes in Toyland, used to be a client. In recent years, Maureen and I have reconnected. So I have a front row seat as this talented musician and writer continues to accomplish. I'm discussing an article today written by Maureen.  I'll include directions for accessing the article at the bottom of this post.  The title of Maureen's article is: "Prince: death by ignorance and fear." I found out in this article that my friend knew, and even once worked for, Prince.  Be still my heart! But back to my point. In this article, Maureen talks about opioid abuse and addiction.

Here is how I relate. I get it.  I understand how chronic pain can lead to abuse of pain medication.  While my knees have not yet gotten to the point of requiring surgery, they are certainly moving in that direction. My arthritis has not been a pleasant companion. I use a cane.  It provides support and eases the pressure on my legs.  Some mornings, I'm not able to make it to the bathroom in time. (I know every spot in my space that is safe to hold on to as I try to get there.) And while the pain isn't always a problem (some days I'm OK), I  know how it feels to want the pain to stop so badly that you will swallow anything to relieve it. I get it. And humility requires me to admit it.  I'm human. And so I know that I will require all the support I can get to make sure I don't develop an opioid problem. Right now, I seem to be in a good period. But I get that a continuation of that is not guaranteed.

As I've read about Prince and his untimely death, I've been very aware of the commonality.  I understand how it could happen. And instead of judgement, I'm filled with compassion and empathy. What about you?  What happens if your body starts to show the consequences of aging?  What happens if you are injured in car accidents like my friend Maureen? What happens if you are in pain?  Think about it. And let's look at solutions.  Without judgement.  Let's talk!  Sending all my love.......

***To find Maureen Herman's wonderful article, go to and search for Maureen Herman.  

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The meaning in my life......

Maxine was really my first and best teacher.  She taught me about pain and compassion.  She taught me about fear and lack of hope.  And she taught me a whole bunch about mental illness. What she taught me can't be found in book learning.  The irony, of course, is that she had no clue that she was teaching me these things.  I would hazard a guess that she would've been shocked and angered that I believed that she taught me about mental illness. But it is fact.  Maxine gave me many gifts in the middle of all the pain. And I really do thank her on a daily basis. How did this come up?

I was given a compliment at work.  I reached out to a customer. And she made an effort to let my employer know about it. And this isn't something that happens on rare occasions.  But I really do recognize the truth.  Maxine helped create it.  She taught me how to reach out.  She taught me that there is a human being underneath it all. So, when I can find my center... I know what to do.  I did the same when I worked in the field.  I knew the person behind the illness. I learned to listen.  I learned how to suspend judgement. I learned how to be open.  And those skills have contributed to all the success I have had in life.  Even in this retail job.  In short, Maxine helps me access the love in my heart and soul.

What a gift. are there in every loving interaction.  You have created me. And the enormity of that gift is overwhelming. I am so grateful.  Thank you. Ultimately you taught me that I have the power to create love where there is pain. And I think that many can relate.  What have the most painful aspects of your life taught you?  What are the gifts?  Let's make a choice to celebrate them today.  Let's talk!  Sending much love.....

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The death of a mentally ill person is a loss.....

Not a blessing.  In an article on the website xo jane recently, the friend of a mentally ill woman wrote an essay saying that it was a 'blessing' that her friend died because of how she had changed as a result of mental illness.  The Washington Post published an excellent response.  (I can't put a link to the article at the bottom of this post due to equipment issues.  I will post the name of the author and title.) Now, I'm going to talk about how I feel about the observation of the essayist in the xo jane article.

Yes, Maxine changed greatly over time. I remember my ambivalence about Maxine. She was at once loved and hated. Trusted and feared. Sought after and avoided. She was Mom. And she was my abuser.  Her words could cut through me like a knife through warm butter. And I craved her hug and touch. I knew the confusion of dealing with a mentally ill loved one. And I know I wished sometimes that she would disappear.  I didn't wish for her death.  There were times I wished my Dad would find us someone 'better'  to be his wife and my Mom.  But those thoughts were very fleeting. And made me feel guilty.  Rightfully so.  Maxine was a human being.  Underneath the illness...she was Maxine.

Mental illness changed me.  In recovery, I've found parts of myself I didn't remember. Would my daughter wish for my release through death because of that? No.  We have always had an awesome bond. Maxine had some 'peaceful' times with my Dad before he died. Would it have been better if Maxine had died before she got so sick?  No.  She had worth.  And don't believe for a second her death would have lessened my trauma. She was my Mom.

The blessing comes with hope. Possibility. Treatment.  It comes with the promise of good health. And the resumption of a relationship. That is the blessing.  I'm not judging that essayist. I'm relatively sure that she sees that thought as loving.  I think it reflects a problematic attitude about mental illness.  And the mentally ill. What do you think?  Sending much love...

*"An essay calling a mentally ill person's death a 'blessing' inspired a powerful response.".   Colby Itkowitz 5/25/16