On my Mind

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”


I’m just going to throw this one out there. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Study after study shows that people who take care of all aspects of their health live longer, more fulfilling lives. Like many health related things, however, people don’t want to talk about it.

So I’m going to talk and hope at least one person listens. In the last two months, several people I care about have become so disillusioned with life that they decided suicide was the only way out. While I’m not an expert, I’ve been there myself and walked with many others who have felt this way. I’m not going to sugarcoat things here with the hope that at least one person understands what I’m saying.

At the time a person reaches this point, the sense of reason is gone. There is literally nothing visible to the individual aside from release. It’s like tunnel vision or wearing blinders. Distraction is almost impossible because the fixation on relief is so strong. If someone is well and truly only focused on the relief, there is not much anyone can do to stop the inevitable conclusion. You can try to talk someone off the ledge, but a truly determined individual will not hear you.

Which brings me to my next point. We’re social beings. If you start to see a friend withdraw, ask why. This is the time your words may be heard. Waiting until the cries for help become so obvious they can’t be ignored is too long. Engage your friends on a regular basis. Check on each other and listen instead of thinking about your next activity. Just imagine if we all paid as much attention to the people around us as we do to celebrities. Everyone’s well-being would improve.

The flip side of this is to recognize when you are over your head. Some people need more help than others. While a chat or a hug may help someone regain a wider view, it’s just not possible for everyone to bounce back as easily. The airline advisory to put your own mask on first is so true. If you become fixated on helping someone who doesn’t want help, you can go down as well. Especially if the person is ultimately successful despite your efforts.

Ironically, mental health professionals are some of the lowest paid individuals and yet they carry such a huge responsibility. My insurance only reimburses up to about 1/3 of what they pay my physicians. As my news feed becomes plugged up with stories about how mental illness is to blame for most shootings, I just think about how great it would be if we not only had the professionals, but also the respect for the profession. Money isn’t everything, but everyone has bills and it would be nice if the people we hope will step up could be compensated accordingly.

Many years ago a movie titled “Crocodile Dundee” screened across America. The title character is from Australia and ends up in America. He has a conversation about life’s troubles with the female lead who mentions her therapist. And the words he spoke “don’t you talk to your mates (friends)?” still reverberates in my mind. We have all become so busy that we have forgotten about our mates. In this crazy, self-absorbed society we have left our friends to fend for themselves. And that is just not cool.

For those of you who contemplate relief on a regular basis, I urge you to seek out professional help now. For those of you who think, but don’t act, reach out. There are many avenues out there available to you. Sometimes you just need to see around the next corner. For those of you who think you’re immune, I ask you to share your strength. Engage with your friends and community. Help others see the sunny side of life.

We’re all in this together. Don’t place blame. Shaming people because you think they’re weak is not okay either. You don’t know what is up next in your life. Or how well you will cope with the next curveball life throws you. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to offer help. Don’t shy away from someone because they have hit a bump. You may be the one who makes a difference.



Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.~ John Wayne

Having a disability is challenging in more ways than most people can imagine. I choose to use a service dog to help with my disabilities. It’s not as easy as some people think. Aside from countless hours of training a canine to help me, I have also had to learn how to help people understand how Blizzard and I work as a team. Some days I’m more diplomatic than other days. I have a list of snappy comebacks to many of the snide comments I hear every day. And then ,there are the “situations” we find ourselves in when we least expect something to happen. The following is a social media post, reposted with permission, that my friend Karyn B. wrote this morning:

Some of you know that I have had a bit of tense history with an elderly gentleman, a Korean War Veteran, who is a patron at my pharmacy. I have had three very unpleasant encounters him regarding Silas. Being we have not crossed paths in quite some time, I assumed the pharmacy warning to compose himself came to fruition and resulted in his transfer to another pharmacy. No, and I quivered as I parked my car and thought I recognized his truck. I am glad I chose to go inside. As Silas and I rounded the corner to the pharmacy, there he was. Scowling. Mumbling in a grunting manner. One eye one me and one eye on Silas. The pharmacist simply said, “Mr ?, that is a service team. You must ignore them.” The man looked at Si and looked back at the pharmacist and said, “She needs to keep that monster bastard away from me.” As if my mouth ran on new Energizer batteries, “Sir, he’s not a bastard, he was an orphan. I am certain you have killed more people than he has, and he is no less a survivor than you. He serves me with the same diligence you served our country. And, his name is Silas, not monster.” Yes, everyone heard the pin drop. My hands were shaking and my voice trembling. I actually had nervous tears in my eyes. I went silent. He checked out, then took a seat. I made my purchase and turned to leave. In a slow, arthritic rise, he stood up and came to me. He said no other words as he walked directly beside Si with the same prong cane he instigated and threatened Silas with before. We exited the sliders as if we went into the store together. The man stood waiting as I had Silas load. I did feel uneasy, uncomfortable with him so near. The man then opened my door for me. I thanked him. He didn’t smile. He didn’t respond, but his actions spoke a million words These are the moments that make life so beautiful. Brave, yet simple and pure.
You don’t need a cape to be a superhero…just the courage to face your challenges with grace and dignity.

Atlas Shrugged

If you’ve ever read any of Ayn Rand’s writing, you know the focus is on a dystopian future filled with philosophical implications. I originally read her works over 30 years ago as a teenager. Then, they seemed to be a rallying cry for my rebellious self to shirk tradition and become a “forward thinker.” Now, her writings seem more predictive in that many of the situations presented in her books seem to have come true.

Atlas is a Titan from Greek mythology who crossed the Gods and must now hold the sky up for eternity. Many people believe Atlas was charged with holding up the Earth. Either way, the implication is that a sole being is responsible for maintaining the balance. That is a mighty burden.

Until recently, I felt I had found a kindred spirit in Atlas. I had crossed the powers that be and my punishment was to forever battle the weight of the world. For 4 years now, I’ve been fighting to find out what was making me so ill. My doctors fought me literally every step of the way. I would research a possibility and then be told that there was no way that could be my problem. As this process repeated itself, I became very depressed. I felt like I was the only one who was interested in discovering what was happening to me.

Last year, I was able to convince one of my doctors to send me to The Mayo Clinic. He did it reluctantly and told me that the only reason he was writing the referral was to convince me that my illness was psychsomatic. When all was said and done, I received two diagnoses. Neither one could be “faked” or deemed psychosomatic. From November until January, my doctors continued to deny I was physically ill. They refused to provide treatment for these illnesses, claiming that I was making up my symptoms. At the end of January, a decision was made by the medical group to fire me as a patient. They claimed I used too many resources and filed too many complaints about my care.

I’m sure the medical group felt they were punishing me by forcing me out of their system. In the last 6 weeks, I’ve discovered that the medical group actually did me a favor. And today, I shrugged.

I now have providers who see me as a person and are at least professionally concerned about my well being. Today, I had a provider caution me about corporate policies and what I needed to do to ensure that my medical needs were being met without crossing corporate decision makers. I have been reassured that I have physiological issues that are severe, but manageable. I was told, very compassionately, that this is my life now. No more tests, no more medication trials, no more feeling like a guinea pig. We’ll follow new developments and talk about if they are worth trying for me. I was given permission to live again.

This. Is. My. Life. I don’t consider that a death sentence. It’s a challenge. Live fully. Love unconditionally. Enjoy every sunrise and sunset. Stop worrying about my medical journey. “We’ve” got your back. And with that conversation, I realized that I was going to be okay. No promises of smooth travels, but it will be okay. And I can live with that.

“Home” by Phillip Phillips

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave (wave) is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m gonna make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
You get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m gonna make this place your home….

Forgive and forget?

Forgiveness is not for the other person, forgiveness is for you~ Bill Ferguson

For some unknown reason, I found myself visiting the church I attended as a child today. I’m not going to launch into a “God led me there” discussion. We all have our beliefs and I want to focus on what I found there. If you’re expecting me to say I found my salvation, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. You see, God and I have had an on-again/off-again relationship for over 30 years. It’s never been a question of God, but rather organized religion as THE guiding light of my life.

It is so simple to proclaim your religious affiliation. It is much harder to live your faith. I was raised in a traditional church and can still recite the service almost verbatim. I know when to sit and when to stand. When to sing and when to bow my head are all part of my upbringing. But, what about my faith? Do I blindly believe the words I can recite from memory? No, I do not.

The Christian Bible, as well as many other religions, proclaim that forgiveness is a path to salvation. By forgiving, we are showing God’s mercy. My question is, for whom? If I forgive “those who trespass against us,” and I’m doing it for God, how do I know that is what God wants? I can interpret what happens in my life in light of the belief that this is all God’s will, but how do I know?

My answer is, I don’t. As I sat through the lightly attended service, I started reminiscing about my past relationship with this particular community. I could “see” the ghosts of the adults who made up the village that helped raise me. At certain moments, it felt like those people were physically present as we said the words proscribed by my religion. Did all those people do God’s will? I don’t think so. They lived their lives as human beings who make mistakes ad try to right their wrongs. They had faith that despite their mistakes, they were good people.

I know at least one of them was not. I’ve held onto that grudge for 30 years. You’ll just have to trust me that the individual really earned a special place in the afterlife. This hatred (and as I previously mentioned, I don’t generally use the word hate) of one individual came flooding back as I recited the words from my childhood. So there I was, worshipping in a location that was the cause of so much pain in my life. And I made a choice.

I chose to let go of the hate. In those quiet moments this evening, I chose to forgive this person. I chose to stop giving this person so much control over my life. I banished that particular ghost from my past. It doesn’t feel like an enormous weight has been lifted. It’s more like I’ve taken a big step forward. Like all decisions, it will take time to work its way into my life. But, it’s a start.

The individual I held responsible for some pretty reprehensible things is long gone. Tonight, I forgave that person. Tonight, I set two people free. Tonight, I decided to “forgive those who trespass against us” and to allow myself to move forward. Because forgiveness isn’t for the ghosts, it’s for the living.