Do you ever think about those who have helped you on your journey of life? I’m thinking my adult life, but I imagine some of you had earlier input and experiences.
I keep in my head a list of the Top 5 people who have made a positive impact on my life. I sometimes just take a few minutes to think about them. It feels good.
In the last five years or so more have been added, but I still prefer to refer to it as my Top 5 List. Top 6, 7, 8, or 9 doesn’t have a ring to it. It will soon be Top 10. I’m guessing some of you have more than that.
The list is not in any particular order, except for the No. 1 position — my husband. Paul is definitely the best thing that has ever happened to me. A miracle indeed.
We’ve been together 36 years. As Aretha and Carole sing so meaningfully, “When my soul was in the lost and found, [he] came along to claim it.” Do not know what I would do without him. We’re best friends.
Another person on the list is my dentist of 40 years, now retired. I dreaded going to the dentist, who doesn’t?
He somehow allayed those fears and nerves. Having laughing gas helped. I was good to go and calm as a cucumber. His bedside manner was perfect.
My first visit with him, he was wearing camel-colored cords and tucked-in white Oxford button down shirt. He probably had a tie on because he always wore one.
He and the administrative assistant were the only people in the office. I love small — perfect. My thought when I met him was, You’re the dentist? You don’t look like what I had in mind.
He was recommended to me because his office was in Peachtree Center, which is where I worked. So I just popped over on my lunch hour for a little pain and a visit with the good doctor.
Our friendship developed and has been a stronghold in my life. I began looking forward to going to the dentist, kind of.
It meant I was going to get to spend time with a friend — a friend who knew and understood me and knew my history. Plus, the gas was like a nice cup of tea.
He was also very good at what he did. My crowns have outlasted their shelf life by years.
I knew he was extra special when he visited me during my first psychiatric hospitalization in 1984. He cared a bit more than I thought I deserved or had even considered. It was a surprise for sure.
I just could not believe he had taken the time to come for a visit. Lord, it did my heart good to see his face. I was so glad to see him. What a kindhearted man. I can’t say enough good things about him.
My next visitor was my then lawyer boss. He wasn’t there to check on my well-being or ask if there was anything he or the law firm could do to help. He was bringing the message, “You’re fired!” A shock to the system bolted through.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that I am in a psych ward, now I have no job to go to when discharged. My psychiatrist was appalled and could not believe this could happen.
I’m pretty sure the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits this now. It was so wrong and talk about kicking a person when they’re down. Compassion anyone?
So, guess what type of law he specializes in? You got it, employment law. I have seen him on TV or in a newspaper a time or two when he’s won a case or gotten a humongous settlement.
You should have seen the look on his face the day I walked into his office years later for an interview. Busted.
I was applying for the receptionist position. My last name had changed so he had no clue who he was seeing. For me, though, it didn’t make a bit of difference — I needed work. I took every interview I could get.
I was surprised when my dad showed up for a visit the first time I was hospitalized. He drove down from Kentucky. I guess my cousin, Jimmy, told him the situation.
I remember we played cards. At the time he asked me if I wanted a cigarette. After all, that is what some people do when under stress. I said okay. This turned in to an addiction I had previously overcome. Oh well.
Daddy meant well and I appreciated it. It was his way of showing love and concern. We know I’m a pushover for things like that. Mother didn’t come, and that was okay.
I could never get a definitive diagnosis. I wanted one. Now I’ve learned there is no such thing basically. Arlene has helped me with this diagnosis business. She is my therapist and is on the list.
Arlene is a thoughtful and kind person. She genuinely cares. I don’t know how she does it. Listening to people’s troubles and struggles has to be hard. I don’t like listening to my own self in therapy. I feel like I’m griping.
I see Arlene every three months, sometimes in-between if something comes up. She counsels and provides medications. I have a cocktail of three drugs. Fortunately, they’re relatively inexpensive.
Arlene says that usually a diagnosis of one disorder is not just one diagnosis — elements from other mental disorders usually are present as well. She does not believe in labeling because you’re likely to attach yourself to it.
“I am what I am, and that’s all that I am,” as Popeye says. I don’t have a label, but I have a commingling of different mental disorders.
I am sad and this falls under depression but that’s about it, maybe a little irritability. I have issues with becoming overwhelmed and overstimulated. And just for fun, I have a touch of OCD.
I do not feel depressed and I don’t act depressed, except for the sadness. I do not consider myself a negative person. I don’t have thoughts of suicide. I think I’m in pretty good shape. Arlene says I am doing well.
Arlene is a straight talker. She says things I need to hear. Sometimes it’s hard taking things in. She does it gently. I forget therapy is work. I am thankful for her.
To me, my main issue is crying. I have cried all my life. It can be embarrassing. I have crying stories, but I’ll spare us all. I hate having this crying issue, but it can be a good release.
I can be in the middle of a conversation when the subject takes a turn and the next thing I know I’m crying about it. Friends who know I cry give me a moment and it passes.
I especially get sad when animals and children are involved. Surely I’m not the only one crying when the ad comes on showing starving and sick children in third-world countries. I change the channel or plug my ears. It’s just too much.
I cry at the news. Don’t even let me walk into a church where organ music is played. Naturally, I cry during therapy.
Sometimes it feels like a curse. A therapist once told me it is a blessing. Honestly, I don’t know what I think now that I’m writing about it.
But then I think of the people who can’t cry for whatever reason. I can’t even imagine that. I choose my situation over theirs.
As my mother said, “She cries at Raid commercials.” She told my fourth grade teacher: “Oh, you won’t be able to talk to Yvonne, all she does is tune up and cry.” Why do I remember these things?
When I was discharged from the hospital, the issue was what am I going to do now. Fortunately, my psychiatrist knew. Rehab.
It was a place called Vistas in Sandy Springs on Roswell Road. It was affiliated with Northside Hospital, the place from which I’d just been discharged. I went there every weekday from around 10:00 to 3:00 until I found a job.
The rehab house was set up in sections: office, kitchen, and maintenance. I started out in the office. Later I moved to the kitchen. We had chores.
One day I was peeling carrots. It was my 30th birthday. I thought to myself this is a birthday I will always remember — and I do.
While attending Vistas, I was always looking for work. Submitting resumes. Going on interviews. I finally landed a position with a good insurance defense law firm. Things were looking up.
Until this blog, I have felt like a bit of a phony. As an adult, I couldn’t relax and be my true self with everyone. If they knew the real me, judgments would be plenty.
I tried to maintain a normal person facade to keep hidden the mental illness and the stigma it carries and the shame I felt. It’s hard living that way. Family members knew and a few friends. Work was a different story.
I feel rumblings of liberation by sharing life experiences. I think lots of people are on the spectrum at varying times and in varying degrees at some point in their lives.
I’m not alone. No one is waltzing through their life.
I have a friend who had been in counseling with a psychiatrist for many years. She recently told me he recommended she start a blog. I found that utterly fascinating. I think he’s a genius! It is cathartic.
Of course, if I were still working, there is no way I could ever tell you my story. Maybe things are loosening up in the workplace.
The stigma is there. I guess people looking for work do like I used to, you fudge things here and there. It was necessary if you wanted a job.
I lost jobs because of the illness. Every now and then I had an episode. You can be taking your meds diligently and an episode can break through. Finding the next job was a challenge.
Wrapping Up . . .
Living with mental illness for me is not a thing — but it used to be. It’s part of my identity — definitely not looking to be anyone else. Having said that, I wouldn’t mind not having mental illness, but then I wouldn’t be me — do I hear Sammy Davis, Jr./Frank Sinatra?
A Personal Note
I would like to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart for reading The Bruno Papers and leaving Comments. You will never know how much this means to me. If you ever have questions, I hope you’ll ask.
To think someone might be interested in reading things I write is a dream come true. I just can’t believe it. You’re the best! You are greatly appreciated.
Be With Those Who Help Your Being
Title of a Poem by Rumi
Rumi Poem — Translation by Coleman Barks
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month