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An Unconventional Event

From a writing prompt in TheDailyOM.com

In 1976, in Columbus, Ohio, when I was 14 years old, I was not a great teenager. I caused my parents no end of trouble with my mouthiness, my rebellion, my general unhappiness of my home life. In retrospect, I was a normal teenager, wouldn’t you say? But I did a very abnormal, unconventional thing that was unplanned and impulsive. I ran away from home. Far away. For a long time, relatively speaking, that is, two whole weeks.

It all started with one of my best friends, Patty, who was 13 and in the 9th grade and I was in the 10th. I wanted to skip school again, which we did rather frequently (even though I’d always continue to have good grades, lucky me), and Patty said if she got caught skipping again she’d catch hell to pay from her parents so our only choice was to just run away. It was really that remarkably simple. We thought it would be a fun adventure and we set about making our plans.

Patty had what seemed like a huge savings account at the bank for the times and for our age, $700! It was a fortune and it would carry us so far! I contributed my paltry babysitting savings of $30. We walked to the bank and Patty withdrew all of her money, no questions asked. These were different times, the 1970’s.

We packed up a few items, clothing, mementos, things that seemed critically important to take with us, and while Patty had a nifty suitcase, I crammed all my stuff into a paper grocery bag. Patty left a note for her parents; I did no such thing. We then took a city bus to Northland Mall, where there was a Greyhound Bus hub and to fulfill Patty’s wishes, we bought tickets to the first stop in Florida which was a town called Jacksonville Beach. Not to be confused with Jacksonville, FL proper, but Jacksonville Beach which was primarily a navy town, and not considered a safe place to be for young runaways. But we didn’t know and we didn’t care. Again, no questions asked at the ticket counter of two teenaged girls buying bus tickets bound for Florida in the middle of a school day.

Oh, it was so exciting, so novel, when we boarded that bus! The whole process had been so simple and we were giddy! This was so freaking cool, no? Definitely yes, indeed, it was.

We were on that bus for 24 very long hours my friends. I’d been to Florida before, but I’d never taken a Greyhound bus anywhere. We just sort of winged it as far as eating at the various stops, being very careful with our financial windfall stash, and no one bothered us, made us feel uncomfortable or really engaged with us. We were just doing our thing.

We arrived in sunny hot Jacksonville Beach and debarked from the bus for the final time of the long trip. We went into the ladies room to freshen up and I remember there was a man in the ladies room, looking for trouble. That was our first sign that maybe Jacksonville Beach wasn’t the best Florida town to come to but again, we didn’t care. This was way too exciting! We were here and Patty’s lifelong dream had come true. Florida was somewhere she’d always wanted to go. By this time in my life, I’d lived many places, Missouri, New York (twice), Florida and several homes in Columbus, Ohio so I considered myself seasoned.

Of course our main goal before any other was to see the beach. I don’t remember how we found ourself there but we did get to the beach before doing anything else. Then we decided we needed a place to live. At this point, in our minds, this was a permanent situation and we needed to make well thought out, good choices.

We rented a studio apartment (once again, no questions asked) that had roaches and no air conditioning but as with everything else, we didn’t care. We were moving forward with our plans and making accomplishments. We were still so giddy and proud of ourselves, but not in a gloating way, rather a more of a validation way, where we were proving that this was all a great idea and everything was going so well.

The next day, we met some of our neighbors, all navy men and their wives or girlfriends and we fell right in with them. They were in their late teens and early twenties and we all formed a quick and warm friendship, Patty’s and my ages notwithstanding-we didn’t hide it. I met an 18 year old guy named Chuck and immediately developed a crush on him-these were my boy-crazy years after all.

The naval guys had a band that played covers from the popular group called Bad Company and they took us down to the local USO to see them play. Nary a thought to us about getting into a car with these relative strangers. They were, and continued to be, very kind people. I still have a photograph of the band playing that night; Chuck must have given it to me at some point.

Within a couple of days, Patty was starting to feel homesick for her boyfriend, Corky, a ne’er-do-well from our friend group-we were all basically anti-establishment and did everything our parents disallowed or disagreed with. We were, after all, I must point out again, teenagers. And most of us were from dysfunctional homes; I know I was. We decided to write letters to all our friends and let them know what we were up to, just newsy letters like you would write to a friend or relative who lived out of town, assuming that our running away was a big deal to them because they weren’t with us and we wanted them to know we missed them but were doing great! We even put our return address on the letters! Never occurred to us that might not be a great idea. We were already gone for good in our minds and nothing could stop us now. This was our life now. And our friends wrote us back.

On the way to looking for a job, I remember Patty buying a record player because music was our thing, like any teenager, and we’d brought our favorite 45’s with us as essentials. So the record player was not considered an extravagance, but rather a necessity. We applied for jobs at McDonald’s and were hired on the spot pending a work permit proving we were 16 years old. This would prove to be a problem since we had no way to get such a permit but we knew we’d figure it out somehow.

So we had our apartment, our record player, our jobs and our friends, all within a few days. I never experienced a moment of homesickness and this life was definitely my new normal. Patty, on the other hand, wasn’t faring so well. Mainly, she just really missed her boyfriend and the novelty was wearing off for her, I could tell. We continued to hang out with our friends, go to the beach, go to the USO, listen to records and ponder the whole work permit issue, but we had plenty of money. I was having a blast. This was heaven for me considering what I’d left behind. I saw my whole future here, especially with Chuck; as by this time we were definitely an item.

One day, two weeks into our adventure, two police officers came to our humble door and that, of course, was the beginning of the end. I was devastated! Who would rat us out? Surely, none of our likeminded friends at home? Our new friends in the apartment complex? To this day, I’ve never known.

We were unceremoniously escorted to the police department, paltry belongings in hand, and immediately separated. I wouldn’t see Patty again until we reunited in school back in Columbus. We never saw our local friends to say goodbye. It was just over. I particularly remember the policeman remarking that I was lucky to be alive considering how long we’d lasted in this dangerous situation and unsafe environment. Who knew? I just cried and cried. This was my first and fortunately only time spending the night in a group home associated with social services. I just remember being so incredibly sad, disappointed and scared to death to go back to my unhappy home in Columbus. I knew I’d be in a world of trouble.

I was flown home the next day and my parents immediately took me to a therapist which was of no use at all because I was so embittered and wasn’t having any of it. Within a week, a violent fight broke out between my dad and me and I was sent to Patty’s to stay until I could procure yet another person to take me in. My mother refused, as she had done several times previously when I requested her to take me back in, my dad and his wife wouldn’t allow me to come back so the plan was to send me to a juvenile detention center. Yes, this was the plan. No one in my family was willing to take care of me. In retrospect, this was extremely traumatic and has affected me my entire life-this life of constant abandonment and giving up on me. I was a relatively normal, smart, friendly, outgoing teenager with atypical problems at home through no real fault of my own. My actions were a result of the constantly dysfunctional circumstances I was exposed to going back to when my biological father left me at 18 months old and subsequently signed adoption papers when my mother remarried. Then she divorced, and made me go live with my adopted father and his 19 year old wife when I was 11. My mom kept my three siblings and I never lived with them again and that was truly traumatizing. So by this time, there had indeed been a lot of disruption in my life and clearly I was acting out as anyone my age would. But I was a good person and it took me years to finally realize that it wasn’t my fault.

Meanwhile, in a Hail Mary attempt to find someone to take me in, I called my maternal grandmother who had recently moved from Ohio to North Carolina with her youngest child, my 18 year old uncle. She agreed to take me! It was bittersweet because I was once again saying goodbye to all my friends, going to a strange place into a strange situation. I remember crying on the plane the entire way down to NC to my seatmate and I wonder today what that poor woman must have thought.

My grandmother saved my life; I have no doubt of that. It was with pure love that she allowed me to come and live with her. We shared a room in a two bedroom apartment until my uncle moved out on his own. We had a lot of fun together, I must say, and I felt safe and loved by at least one person on this earth. She saw to it that I paid Patty back every penny that we’d used to run away and she taught me so many things about unconditional love which I’d never experienced. I also stayed in touch with Chuck and he even came to visit me in NC which was very cool. Sadly, I dumped him for a loser boyfriend and I regretted how I handled it for the rest of my life. I was actually able to track him down fairly recently and I apologized and he was fine, no regrets, no worries, so that was satisfying,

I lived with my grandmother for over a year, until I finished high school. I got a full time job at age 15 working in a diner, and mainly couch-surfed for awhile with my co-workers. I stayed in touch with my Columbus friends, and actually saw Patty many years later when I was visiting Columbus with my future husband. Patty has since died, of an alcoholic overdose. Her life never really recovered after our adventure. I, however, look back on this time with joy and astonishment as I know now that it was a truly unconventional, ballsy and dangerous thing to do, but I will always remember it as a grand adventure.

My Younger Years

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From a prompt in a series of journaling I am doing presented by TheDailyOM.com

I am the oldest of five, 3 of which are half siblings. My first 10 years were the precipice for the greatest decline of a halfway decent life. The first 10 years were just OK. My biological father left me when I was 18 months old, my mother remarried a minister who adopted me and my brother when I was about four years old. They had two children in rapid succession and we moved seven times over the 6 year period they were married. Both of my parents were profoundly depressed and were hospitalized just prior to the divorce. Those first 10 years sadly qualify as the best, most stable part of my childhood.
At age 11, my mother sent me to live with my (adopted) dad and his new 19 year old wife. It was horrible because my mother was abandoning me and I was afraid of my dad-he was mean when he was unhappy and that was the standard. I never lived with my siblings again after that except for a brief stint with my brother living with us, but he was invited back to Mom’s. I never was, even though I begged on more than one occasion. Luckily, I didn’t have to change schools (yet) as the years of age 11-13 were extremely formative in terms of adolescence, physical and emotional growth, etc. I was shorted a mother’s guidance and I floundered. But I always had my friends. Until we moved.
I attended two different schools in the 8th grade alone, as we kept moving and moving back. It was excruciating every time I had to leave my friends. I never got over it. If there was any resilience-building time period in my life, this was it. I was able to make friends easily and did well in school. But I learned to not be able to trust any relationship or situation in any given moment which was off putting to the people I cared about and it was just chaos the entire time. I graduated high school early after a move to NC to live with yet another person, my maternal grandmother, and worked full time at a diner then a retail store until I turned 17 and then I quietly slipped out of town, basically unnoticed, to move to another city with a man I would marry at 18 and divorce at 19.
My childhood sucked on so many levels and I didn’t even realize the extent of the damage until I was a mother raising my own children in a happy home. It is truly astounding how important those early years are and how critically they shape your entire life. Add to that a group of adult caretakers who seemed not to have ever gone through childhood at all as they had no handle on what was happening to their own children. I have trouble trusting any of my parents, I suffered physically and emotionally from untreated anxiety and depression, and I didn’t know true happiness until I got help with a great therapist and medication.
I resent everything that happened to me in my childhood. A parent has one singular job when they decide to have a child: Keep that child safe. I never felt safe. I never felt loved, I never felt wanted, and I didn’t even know any different. The older I get the more resentful I become because I’m constantly realizing something new, every day it seems, about how shitty my childhood was when compared to others, including my husband and my own children. I lost out on so much. And I blamed myself for so long. I was unlovable, therefore I was doing something -everything- wrong. I’ve spent my whole life trying to buy love and I’ve failed miserably. I give too much away because I’m striving for that acceptance and validation but still not getting it. The past can’t be undone and there are no do-overs.

Right now, at age 60, I’m on a very difficult journey of trying to learn forgiveness, not to benefit those whom I’m unable to forgive, but to release myself of this burden and find peace. I fear I will not be successful in this journey, and I’m fighting it completely alone, abandonedment issues rearing their ugly head as I delve deep into myself and try to heal. I’m not even close and time may run out before I am blessed by the grace of God by that peace I so desperately covet. But I’ve learned a few things, mostly about boundaries, mindfulness, and who I am as a mother. This, along with a patient, supportive and loving husband, who understands that he can’t fix me, has been helpful in this continued journey. I just don’t know if I have the time left or emotional energy to see it to its fruition.

The Dishrag

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Swirling your hand around in the murky kitchen sink

You pulled out the dishrag

You wrung it out, as if you were strangling it

And used the toxic cloth to wipe up your mess

Once you tired of cleaning

You threw the dishrag on the counter

Where it dried into a stiff misshapen grotesquery

And you just left it there, abandoned

You never finished cleaning the mess you made

You just forgot all about the dishrag

But the dishrag still exists, grotesque and toxic

Wondering what happens next?

I Wish For You a Better Me

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My flaws are many

My good ideas are few

But one thing I am not

Is accountable to you

 

I make a lot of mistakes

I sometimes act inappropriately

But that doesn’t give you the right

To treat me disdainfully

 

You seem to hate me

I never say or do the right thing

But I hate myself even more

And to you I would never cling

 

How will we get through this?

How much longer will we try?

It seems no matter what,

We always have an ugly goodbye

 

The bridge was built long and solid

But it’s burning every day

And I’m too old and tired

To be able to swim away

 

I know, because you tell me

That it’s all my fault

I ruin everything

And I need to bring it to a halt

 

But even that’s not good enough for long

For soon I will err again

And your forgiveness is over

Even before it began

 

I would ask you to give me a chance

To redeem myself in your eyes

But like I said, I’m old and tired

And I’ve been through too many tries

 

Maybe it’s all just karma

You disliking me so

Because I, too,

Deeply dislike my foe

 

So we’ll continue our days

Walking on eggshells

Knowing that at any moment

It can all go to hell.

 

Yes I ruin everything

And probably always will

But that’s not what I set out to do

I am justly defined as ruinous because I am ill

 

You deserved better

You and I both know it

But this is all I’ve got for you

And my heart is breaking bit by bit

 

I wish there was a better me out there for you

I wish I could be flawless and perfect enough

But alas, this is what you’re stuck with

And for you I know it’s unfair and tough

 

I feel the eggshells beginning to crack

So I better end this missive

Although I suspect you’ll never read it

Because of me you’re so dismissive.

 

I wish I could end this on a hopeful note

And if I could, I would

Perhaps someday, from that burning bridge

Maybe you’ll send me a boat

But the fact that I’m even writing this

Makes me think there is no hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflections on Our Patriarch

 

Charles Marvin Clapp.

Born, lived and died on Clapp Farms Rd.

Eighty-eight years old.

Lived an exemplary life as a successful farmer.

Married to the love of his life, Sylvia Fryar, for nigh on 40 years

Until her untimely death 20 years ago.

Raised two very fine sons, Alan and Andy, both of whom were close to him especially in these later years as they spent more time together.

 

Marvin never remarried, although all the widow ladies of the church were lined up and down the road bearing casseroles and maybe an offer he couldn’t refuse.

But refuse he did and he spent those remaining 20 years working the farm with his brother, nephew, son and grandsons.

 

Marvin lived to see all five of his grandchildren through college and they were his pride and joy. He adored each of them equally, including the girls even though they couldn’t farm.

 

In addition to his family, Marvin loved his Ford trucks, his John Deere equipment, Old Timer pocket knives and chewing tobacco. His favorite sports teams were any team that his children and grandchildren participated in and of course, the Atlanta Braves.

 

He loved cats and dogs equally; but he was particularly partial to his last dog, Trixie.

 

Marvin was an incredibly smart but very uncomplicated man. He was a man of very few words but when he did speak, it was always profound.

Words such as “Hey”.

Or “Thank You”.

Or “Fine, you?”

Or “Bring me a Pepsi and a pack of Nabs.”

And my personal favorite, “I love you too.”

 

After Sylvia’s passing, no one was sure how Marvin would eat. Once the casseroles dried up, he was fortunate enough to get a home-cooked meal for dinner every night from daughter-in-law Lisa, and a yummy breakfast every morning of pineapple coconut cake, lovingly made weekly by daughter-in-law Amy. And if he was running low, he would absolutely let Amy know.

 

Marvin was fair and generous to all his loved ones and he suffered a number of losses in his later years including his wife, two sisters, a brother-in-law, several cousins and a host of longtime true friends.

 

It’s very difficult to think of Clapp Farms Rd. without Marvin residing and working there. This is a tremendous loss to the family but all are grateful that his aching body has been renewed and that he is reunited with his beloved Sylvia.

 

We all come into this world in the same way, and clutching a round trip ticket. We don’t get to know when God will see fit to redeem that ticket but Marvin loved his God, our Father, and he was ready to go. That does bring some degree of comfort to the family and we are eternally  grateful for having known and loved him.

 

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Unmoored, Untethered, Undone

I awaken, finding myself splayed out

In the bottom of a small, rickety dinghy.

Unmoored, untethered, without anchor.

I am in the middle of the ocean

In the middle of nowhere.

I see nothing but swells

All around me

Rocking me to and fro.

I feel the pain; it’s palpable,

But intangible.

No broken bones, no bleeding cuts.

Just the very essence of my broken heart

Oozing its way throughout my body.

Palpable yet intangible.

Words not yet invented to describe the pain.

I sit up, take inventory of my predicament.

Doesn’t matter how I got here.

Does it?

I can’t think about that; it’s more than I can comprehend.

Why must I feel so intensely?

Why does heartache feel so unmanageable?

Why can’t I be dense, unthinking, unfeeling?

Why can’t this pain roll off of me like the very ocean of water I find myself in?

No, my body absorbs the pain.

It takes unexplainable, circuitous routes

Throughout my being, inside and out

Like a pinball game.

Bouncing around all my organs

Including my skin

With nowhere to go

So it hits nerves, everywhere

And I shudder with the pain, not knowing where it’s going to hit next.

 

I awaken again, this time in a fetal position,

Ocean waves still all around me

A bit more aggressive this time

Should I be worried?

I can’t decide whether I care.

I’m pretty sure I don’t.

I just want the pain to stop.

 

I lean over the side of the dinghy

In order to let my tears fall into the ocean

So as not to flood my little boat.

It would have surely sunk by now.

 

As I look up, I see something

Something far away but moving closer.

It’s a ship!

And ever closer, I see people lined up on the deck

People I know

People I love

People who love me.

There seem to be so many!

And they are calling out to me,

Begging me to grab the float they’ve tossed.

Asking me to come back

To myself

And them.

They can save me.

But can they?

 

I look again

And see nothing.

It was all a mirage.

There’s no one who loves me

There’s no one I love.

There’s no life saving float.

 

I remain unmoored, untethered.

Then I completely come undone.

An Astonishing Number of Deaths

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My dear friend and neighbor died the day after Thanksgiving and while it was not unexpected, I’m still deeply saddened by the loss. Her death started me thinking about the astonishing and random number of deaths that have occurred this year, directly, or peripherally, but all acknowledged nonetheless.

None of these deaths were Covid related. Several were of natural causes which, in each case, I’m reminded that we all come into this world in the exact same way, and we are all clutching a round trip ticket. But we don’t get to know when that ticket will be redeemed do we? We just know that it is final, and a new chapter of our own life begins without this person in it, again rather it be a person who was firmly a part of our life, or someone else, who was close to someone we care about, thereby affecting us by virtue of the fact that we feel sadness for those left behind.

A short summary, in chronological order:

A longtime friend’s husband, by terminal illness;

A former boss and longtime friend whom I admired and shared many memories with, of cancer and a stroke;

A twenty year old young man, the son of friends from church, of cancer;

A man with Downs Syndrome who lived double his life expectancy and died at age 65;

A friend’s husband who died of chronic illness but still unexpectedly;

Two elderly cousins who lived full lives and took all of their as yet not shared knowledge of life experiences with them;

My Sunday school teacher, who died from complications of surgery;

A friend’s grandfather who lives in another country of natural causes, but my friend was not able to travel to his service and pay her final respects;

And finally, my beloved friend and neighbor, of natural causes, and perhaps even a bit of a broken heart since it was her son with Downs Syndrome who died earlier in the year.

Ten relatively random deaths within a span of a little over one year. Here, then gone. How do we process this? Does it make any difference as to whether it was natural causes? I would think not for the family and close friends. Death is a huge and permanent loss. It is guaranteed, that is not in question. It is a completely natural event that happens every minute of every day. For me personally, I don’t fear death for myself (although I hope I don’t die a painful death), but I do fear for my loved ones left in my wake. I feel worthy enough in life to believe that I will be missed when my time comes.

All ten of these deaths I’ve observed this year have left behind loved ones who mourn. So not only do we know that death is imminent and permanent, so must we accept that we have to grieve along the way. Do we appreciate life more? Do we make promises to be a better person? Do we reach out to those who are particularly hurting? I don’t know the answers. I suspect it’s a different experience for everyone. But I do believe we that are left behind are blindsided by our reaction to a death. I do believe there’s no way to express the feelings unless and until you’ve experienced it.

I’ve got many more yesterdays than tomorrows left in my life and I know I will experience the loss through death many more times. I hope that I can deal with this gracefully and always remain thankful for having known that person. I miss my friend and neighbor an awful lot right now, it being a recent occurrence, and I’m profoundly sad.

Ten deaths. Ten random but guaranteed deaths. This is the life we are born into. And we can only do the best we can until the end. At that point, we are set free.

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Front Row Seat To A Descent Into Madness.

This is the saddest story that I will ever have to write.

I first met my friend Mark, in Ohio, where we were both from, when we were teenagers. We were each other’s first young love. We only parted because my family moved several states away. However, we stayed in touch sporadically, some 47 years now, and he went on to live a successful life as a husband and father of four children and a career as a minister of the Free Will Baptist Church. I moved to the south and I married and had three children of my own and worked in a career in accounting.

We saw each other at a 20th high school class reunion and it was very emotional for both of us. We knew that we still had a connection between us but we of course could not voice it or act upon it. About 20 years later, in 2019, I found out through the grapevine that Mark had developed late in life bipolar disorder and it was pretty severe. His family could not and would not understand or help him. He lost his marriage and his kids and this disease sent him into a spiral of despair. Sadly, he ended up in prison for three years for stalking and violating a restraining order from his ex-wife.  Several months of that prison time was spent in the mental ward where he was finally regulated properly with his medications so he finished his prison term in fairly good shape, all things considered.

Upon his release from prison, he had to start over completely. He had no wife, no children, no career. He had nothing, but he was taking his medication. And he was healthy, if not a bit over medicated. He was determined to starting his new life on solid mental ground. I was very proud of him, as I too, suffer from mental illness, in my case, major depressive disorder, and I understand all too well how important it is to stay on your medication and stay vigilant.

He’d suffered terrible losses. But he never lost his faith in God and he lived a life that he was proud of. He continued to progress forward in his new life and became involved in his church and got an apartment and was doing well. I reached out to him in late 2019 and he was just kind of living his life as a loner, spending most of his time in worship and service to God, having put his past successes and failures behind him.

We were in regular touch for about two years. We visited each other and we supported each other through our lives, and our trials. It was a good and very comforting friendship that I cherished.

Unfortunately, Mark was arrested for violating parole because he contacted his ex-wife in order to obtain permission to see his children on Father’s Day in 2021. This resulted in a six month prison sentence for parole violation which began in June of 2021. As I write this, Mark will be released in seven days, on Monday, November 29. And up until last week, I was scheduled to go pick him up from prison and take him back home and stay up there for several days to help him get back on his feet. He has absolutely no family support whatsoever. It’s quite sad and speaks to the ongoing stigma of mental illness. But I am his champion and advocate by choice and have been grateful for the opportunity to be the one person he can count on. We’ve stayed in touch daily during his prison sentence, and I have been devoted and diligent in writing him letters, talking to him by phone, scheduling video chats and just being available. I have covered his costs of commissary, telephone, etc. Since his own family has given up on him, he would agree that I was all that he had in this world besides God and his church.

Unfortunately, upon his arrest in late May, he was denied medication and had to go off his medications cold turkey which was extremely dangerous as anyone who suffers from mental illness knows. He, however, was not disappointed because he was feeling so much better being off the medication. Apparently, it was obvious that he was very over medicated during the past two years as he was often depressed and slept 16 plus hours a day and had trouble making decisions. He was looking forward to seeing his doctor to regulate his medications as he knew that his quality of life could be better but then the arrest happened and all of the medications ended. I was really impressed and proud of how he was handling his time in prison. I really expected him to freefall into mania or depression and I was quite concerned. But he was socializing, making friends, spreading the Word of God, from whom his faith has never wavered, and he was feeling very positive about his future.

He saw the prison mental health professionals a couple of times during his incarceration and he told them that he was fine and that he was cured from this disease. However, this was absolutely not the case. I didn’t really begin to recognize the effects of the lack of medication until about September. He was only sleeping three to four hours during a 24 hour period, if even that much. When we would talk on the phone, he would talk quite rapidly and just tell me every bit of detailed minutiae of what he’d been doing, what music he was listening to, what movies he was watching, et cetera. It became so overwhelming that I just couldn’t get a word in edgewise. He was just frankly talking gibberish and the letters that he sent me were unreadable. They were just pages and pages of drawings and numbers and calculations and meaningless paragraphs that made no sense.

Around the beginning of October I called him out on this. I said I really think he needed to get back on some proper medication and he vehemently said absolutely not. He felt like a million bucks! And he had grand plans for when he was released. He was in the arrogant, grandiose phase of his mania. Meanwhile, at least six bunkmates he’d shared a cell with over the time he’d been in prison requested that he be moved because he never slept, talked all the time and generally drove them crazy. And he just was driving everyone crazy, including prison authorities. In the six months that he spent in prison to this day, he has been sent to solitary confinement seven times for minor infractions.

As I’ve observed this massive and unchecked deterioration, my heart has been breaking because I knew him to be a humble, kind, loving, faithful, compassionate person and that person has completely disappeared, absorbed by this monster disease. He’s been transformed into this manic, grandiose, angry, obnoxious, crazy talking, non-sleeping person that I’ve never known and certainly do not recognize. At this point I don’t even see a flicker of the Mark I knew and loved. But he doesn’t in any way accept that anything is wrong with him, that anything had changed. He is convinced that he’s been cured by the Grace of God of his mental illness.

A few days ago, which would have been two weeks before his release, I once again called him out on his behavior, saying that he had to own his part in what he’s been doing and that he can’t blame everyone else for all of his problems. And he completely lost control and cussed at me and berated me and was horribly hateful and belligerent. I simply couldn’t have a rational conversation with him. It was impossible. I had to hang up on him. He called back the next day because he had been sent to solitary again, presumably after throwing a fit following our phone call. He told me that prisoners were trying to kill him. He’d become delusional. By this point, I was so angry and so disappointed and so frustrated that I told him that he was on his own. I told him that I canceled him. And I did cancel him. I canceled my trip. I canceled everything that I had done for him. I canceled my financial support. I told him to never speak to me again unless and/or until he saw a doctor and got back on medication. And he went on to cuss me out again, and tell me how horrible I was. He called me names such as baby killer because I am pro-choice. He was spouting homophobic and racist tirades. He was just delusional and completely off the wall with his anger towards me, something I’ve never ever heard from this formerly peaceful God loving and forgiving soul that I knew.

It’s now seven days until his release and my understanding is that he will take a Greyhound bus from the prison back to his hometown and he has no one to pick him up and get him settled. But he is not worried about it. He has got it all under control. He is going to go out and preach The Word of God to the world as he has been personally instructed by God to do, so he believes. He insists that I will see him on TV someday soon. I can’t even imagine what additional utter nonsense he would say to me at this point.

I’m absolutely devastated by this. I feel like I have watched a man that I have loved my whole life spiral into someone completely unrecognizable, whom I do not know, and I watched it happen day by day, hour by hour in real time. It has been one of the most brutal experiences that I have ever had. I genuinely fear for his life. I fear for the damage that he will do to himself and to others especially once he is released from prison. I suspect that he will be back in prison fairly soon. And it is heartbreaking to me because we were so close and I was such a great supporter of him while he was incarcerated. And now I feel that I have failed him. even though I know intellectually that is not true. I don’t know who to blame. Although I do think he needs to take ownership of what has happened to him. And he is in no way going to do that. As far as he’s concerned, he’s fine, and everyone else is doing him wrong. This is indeed the saddest story that I have ever written. And my heart is broken, irrevocably.


Piece Of My Mind, Peace of Mind

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The nightmares come at their own whim.

Just as I settle into a good frame of mind, 

A positive outlook, 

A place of clarity, 

The nightmares come in.

Some call it PTSD. 

That I’m doomed to relive the pain of my past. 

I awaken, 

Shaken. 

Minutes, sometimes longer, 

Go by 

Before I realize 

I am not where my dreams have wandered. 

I’m no longer Me Too-ing my way through the day, 

Year after year with the same tormentor. 

I’m no longer spending time with my parents, 

Trying to get some attention, any acknowledgment, any say.

I’m awake now 

Quivering, 

Shivering, 

Quaking, 

Shaking,

Aching.

Wondering,  must I endure this? 

Why? And how?

In my conscious state, I’m fine. 

I’m upbeat, 

I’m hopeful, 

I’m relevant. 

I’m helpful, 

But in these nightmares of mine, 

I go back.

To the scary days,

The bad days, 

The lonely days, 

The painful days

Keeping my secrets at bay. 

And in those first waking moments, 

I’m still alone 

I’m scared

I’m in pain 

And I don’t know to whom to turn.

What to say.

Gradually I come to, 

And realize that those things aren’t happening anymore. 

So why does my unconscious mind refuse to let go? 

What happens during my waking hours to trigger these nightmares? 

Even though I’m filled with relief that it’s just a dream,

My day remains dark. 

I ponder and fret. 

It all comes back to me. 

I desperately want my mind to get

To the place I deserve.

Peace.

I want peace. 

Please?

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I Missed Out

I Missed Out…..

I missed out on so much.

I missed out on a loving father-daughter relationship.

I missed out on a loving mother-daughter relationship.

I missed out on healthy sibling relationships.

I missed out on seeing my first love relationship to its fruition.

I missed out on going to college.

I missed out on celebrating a number of birthdays and holidays.

I missed out on being able to maintain lifelong friendships.

I missed out on a life not filled with anxiety and depression.

I missed out on healthy relationships with boyfriends.

I missed out on understanding and appreciating intimacy.

I missed out on acceptance.

I missed out on joy and celebrations.

I missed out on healthy working relationships with colleagues and bosses.

I missed out on being needed.

I missed out on being wanted.

I missed out on being respected.

I missed out on being appreciated.

And I missed out on being missed.

 

No, I was not an orphan.

I had a mother and a few stepmothers.

I had a father and an adopted father and a stepfather.

I had four siblings, none of whom I grew up with.

I had a life of being removed and replaced.

A life of being dismissed and disrespected.

A life of pain and loneliness.

A life without boundaries.

A life of confusion.

A life of misunderstanding.

A life of being misunderstood.

A life of conditional love.

A life of unhealthy relationships.

 

I missed out on so much.

And I don’t have a lot of life left to live; 

I have many more yesterdays than tomorrows.  

I learned too late to remove myself from the toxicity of the past.

 

But my life isn’t over yet.

I now have a life filled with unconditional love.

A life filled with unconditional love that I feel for others.

A life of being self taught through books and research and experience.

A life of experiencing current, healthy and ongoing relationships.

And I’m learning how to set boundaries.

I’m still learning how to appreciate all that I have now.

I’m still learning how to appreciate being me.

I’m still learning how to love being me.

I’m still learning…….