I love the French language! In high school I took French for four years and two years in college. We received new names in the classroom. The French name for Nancy is Nanette. During my years of mental anguish, I used to tell people that my name was Nanette and then go into a little speal of speaking in French just for fun. When I first wrote my book, it was about a woman named Nanette. All that changed when I felt the need to portray my character from the perspective of the writer which, of course, was “moi”. My editor, God Bless her, had the daunting task of changing every me, my, she, her, us, we etc. into the first person, I. Wow. Thank God for Microsoft Word 2010 where word replacement is a snap!
There was something else about the French language that transformed my life when I was at an all-time low…..okay, there were MANY all-time lows over the years but this was my second one. I was attending Kent State University right out of high school. That is when I walked into a classroom and met a woman who undoubtedly changed the course of my life. Her name was Mademoiselle Evans and she was my French professor. She was very pretty, always dressed beautifully and was passionate in her work. I adored her. Her tests were hard but that was part of the challenge! I remember learning the words to “The Answer is Blowing in the Wind” and singing it in front of the class in French. It was beautiful. I wish I could write it for you but too many years have passed by so….when I meet up with Mlle. Evans again, I will let you know how it goes. Anyway, I was a manic freshman at Kent State. Loud. Boisterous. Obnoxious. You get it? I was HIGH every minute of every day without the use of drugs. Everything revolved around me. People could tell me off (which happened often) and it wouldn’t phase me in the least. I’d just laugh! LAUGH LOUD like everything else I did. But with the HIGHS come the LOWS and in a matter of months I was there. In a deep dark negative mindset that I could not get out of. I suddenly was unable to go to classes. I suddenly was unable to do much of anything. I tried desperately to make it to my French class. One day I walked in and it was time for a test. I sat silently looking at the blank paper in front of me and looked up at Mlle. Evans and with a quick glance she saw my pain. I know that she wondered what was happening and after class while she and I rode an elevator together going down a few flights I told her I wanted to end my life.
I was so scared. I was SO scared that I was going to complete suicide that I knew I could not go back to my dorm room so I asked Mlle. Evans to do the unthinkable…..I asked her if she could take me home to her house with her husband and two small children and spend the night so I could be safe. She thought for a few seconds and then answered “yes”. She saved my life. For it was not long afterwards that she called my Mother and said “If you don’t come get your daughter, you will not have a daughter.” Thus, one of my deeply anguished songs was birthed……with the chorus simply written from God’s perspective “No, No Nanette…….I’m not ready for you yet…..”
One night in April 1988, Max and I had our final argument. It was the end of our relationship. I packed my suitcase and proceeded to do what I had planned. I left the apartment in the dark and on foot. I walked until I couldn’t walk anymore, so I slumped down in a field and put my head on my suitcase for a pillow. I decided that in the morning I would take a bus downtown and begin my new life as a homeless person. I believed that was where I belonged, and truly thought that I would be able to get along with these lost souls, sharing food and alcohol with them and having my own cardboard box. I focused solely on that plan and decided to take the first bus in the morning.
The one thing that I could not help but notice as I looked up at the sparkling sky was the enormity of it. It was beautiful with shimmering stars and a big moon staring down at me. I thought of God and how Jesus had shown his love to me so wonderfully that day in Rhode Island when I was so close to suicide. Where was he now when I was hurting so badly? Could he really be out there somewhere past that illuminated sky? I called for him but he did not answer. Again I thought about how alone I was. No family, no friends, no car, and no hope. The emotional pain of being rejected by Max was eating me up inside, but I knew deep in my heart that it was over between the two of us. I hung out in that field all night thinking about the prospect of living on the streets of Denver and trying to figure out where I would plug in my curling iron and how I would be able to put my make-up on. I needed my “cover” of not looking like a mentally ill person. I thought about the unforgiving brick buildings and the towering skyscrapers downtown. There would be no electric plugs. I also needed my make-up mirror to light up. I had it in my suitcase along with my mascara and other items. It was really not making sense to live on the streets, but I felt that I had nowhere else to live. I refused to go back to Max. I slept a little bit that night and when the sun finally began to rise, it seemed that the morning light gave me a new idea. This would be a last ditch effort to get some help.
In the morning I walked the long trek to the local Mental Health Center, as they were called at that time. I went in and sat in the waiting room not really knowing what to expect. A beautiful African American woman came out and took me aside. I told her of my plan to live on the streets of Denver, and also of my other plan which was to commit suicide. This woman was very strong and convincing, and she insisted that I go live in what they called then “a half-way house”, instead of on the streets. I could not get that nightmare out of my mind about the bus driver saying that it was a one way trip to Colorado. It made me certain that I would never leave the state alive, and my plans to live on the streets or commit suicide once and for all were very hard for me to change.
I really didn’t want to go to some strange half-way house and live with people I didn’t know, especially when I was feeling so screwed up. It took a lot of persuading, but I finally agreed to move into this half-way house that was located in Littleton, Colorado. I walked into the house and right away I told my story to anyone who would listen, again searching, ever searching for one person to be able to help me and my crazy mind. I told everyone that I really didn’t see myself living through this period of time in Colorado and didn’t want to be in this half-way house at all.
I found that they all shared the same bathroom and shower, and this was a deterrent to me as well, because there were all kinds of different people living there. I couldn’t fathom taking a shower where all the others took theirs also. It seemed really gross considering that there was a man living there who really did live on the streets of Denver and he was filthy dirty. The thought of all of them sharing a bathroom really bothered me, but there really wasn’t a choice. The only option was that I took on the chore of cleaning the bathroom from top to bottom, and that helped me with the others using it. I also liked to vacuum the entire house upstairs and downstairs. Each week someone different was assigned to cook for everyone, but there was this one man who was an over-the-top fantastic cook. He fried up chicken and made salads that were really amazing, so most of the people living there exchanged chores with him so that he would cook for us every night. Nobody minded cleaning up the kitchen as long as this man did all the cooking.
The gentleman who lived on the streets of Denver fascinated me since I was planning on doing the same thing. I interviewed him about the lifestyle of the homeless. He had a big long fuzzy beard and a weather beaten face. He also didn’t have many changes of clothing. He told me how he and others had pulled out their own teeth because they hurt so much and they would have been turned away had they walked into a dentist office. During the winter months they all shared bottles of alcohol which gave them the feeling of being warm for a time, but that it was false warmth that went away very quickly. The winter months were very difficult because the snowfall in that area of the country was monumental. I remembered my first ski trip I went on with Max. We went to his buddy’s house and his wife gave me this powder blue all one-piece snow suit to wear. I was thankful because it keep me warm and dry. Max paid for me to take lessons that day, and then finally I had the opportunity to go on the lift and ski down the slope. It was exhilarating and I enjoyed it so much. Max was an avid skier and went down the highest mountain which really was impressive to me since just walking in the boots seemed uncomfortable to me. Max was opening doors to a much broader life than what we had had in Rhode Island. He seemed so happy living in Colorado; it was just that I had been holding him back with my total dependence on him for the three years we were together.
A lot of people have asked “What is it like in a mental hospital?” I think……”Gee, isn’t that something everyone knows?” HA! Everyone who I know knows!!! Yeah, well a big LOL to that. The truth is I really do know a lot of people who DO. Those who HAVE stayed in a mental hospital. Served time, one could say. Time. Not always fun but certainly not boring. It used to be that some would actually call it a vacation as insurance was plentiful back in the day and we were treated with respect and care. The finest hospital I stayed in was located in Providence, RI. It was (and still is) called Butler Hospital on beautiful Blackstone Blvd. Even the hospital beds were more comfortable, it seemed. I remember going out for long walks in a group on the beautiful grounds and playing volleyball with some interesting people. Normally, a person thinks of a good volleyball player as someone who is tall and lanky. In a mental hospital, the best volleyball player is the one with the least amount of side effects from psychotropic drugs that can hit the ball over the net without drooling, shaking or falling down. And then, of course, our coach. A mental hospital Activity Director they called him. Enthusiastically, he yells “good job” no matter what anyone does. A woman ran into me trying to hit the ball and he yelled “Good job!”(A paranoid person could have taken THAT wrong!) One night it was time for us to line up like cattle and take the flight of steps down to the cafeteria. The food was always good at Butler. I glanced up at the notice on the door that tells us what is for dinner. It said “Lobster”. Seriously? When I got closer I stood in amazement as each person was given their own full sized lobster on a plate with a container dripping with butter. I can still see myself sitting there staring at mine. The little bug-eyes were staring back at me. All these Rhode Islanders were used to eating lobster but I wasn’t. I watched the others break open the shell and I followed suit. The only thing I had remembered about lobsters as a kid was while on vacation camping in Bar Harbor, Maine, my mother putting the live lobsters in a big pot of boiling water and listening to them SCREAM. When each came out of the pot they had turned red. I thought about all the lobsters that must have screamed as I pulled the thing apart and ate little chunks at a time. All I can say is that I thank God that I am sane today…….and don’t need Butler Hospital or any hospital. (for TODAY!) I give God all the praise, glory and honor that He deserves because I KNOW that I KNOW that I KNOW He is responsible for keeping me sane….and I am thankful that I had the chance to stay in “the hospital that served lobster” when I was ill.
“If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” 2 Corinthians 5:13 Paul wrote this after he, himself, was questioned about his sanity, he, like me, was once bound in the chains of darkness and when he, like me, found the way, the truth, and the light OUT of the darkness, he, like me, wants to shout it from the rooftops to share the GOOD NEWS!
Wow! Today I watched the national news for the first time in well, like months…. Of all times! The horrendous flooding in Colorado – some places got “one year’s worth of rain all in one day!), the fire that burned down the brand new boardwalk in Jersey that was just rebuilt after hurricane Sandy. Nicole Kidman got hit by a bicycle? (Oh!) What a day. Interestingly enough today is Friday the 13th. `Are you superstitious?` It is hard to believe that our country has been so devastated from the east to the west all in one day. I missed the part about Seria…..I guess I’d rather not know. In order to have peace of mind, I choose not to focus on what is happening in this world because I, well, we ALL know that the news is not good. I’m sure there are a lot of people who would disagree and think I was living in my own little bubble. That’s okay, in my bubble I will stay……to remain sane! Something that I always found interesting is that a person can suffer horribly with mental illness and fall into deep depression and it has absolutely nothing to do with outside events! That is why people will ask “Why are you depressed?” I have heard that question and I never had an answer!!! I did not have triggers; I had cycles. The cycles are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. But to have triggers that are this monumental…. the ones whose houses are ruined in Colorado, they have a reason to be depressed! But the hardest part about the flooding is the 80+ people who are missing. Families searching for their families. Emotional pain and anguish, anxiety and concern. That is torture too. The other thought is for the animals. Hard to bear the thought of searching for a sister or brother and a beloved dog too. I am praying for all the hurting people in our nation tonight. God Bless America!!! And…God Bless YOU!
I woke up this morning with a SONG in my heart. It was an original by The Stevens Family. I was then on a mission to find their lastest CD “Can’t Thank You Enough”. My dear husband, the “organizer” had put all the CD’s neatly away….how would I ever find it? I went to their website in search of just listening to that one song….but, oh, I just HAD to find the CD…..then back upstairs I marched and, well, there it was! The Stevens Family CD! Ohhhhhh, NO, it was their Christmas CD. (too early for that!) I looked in a little CD holder that was near the two huge stacks of CD’s I had already searched through and there it was WOW! “Thank you, Lord.” I listened to the song and decided to write this blog. A blog about Jesus pulling us “out of the pit!” “I was in a pit, a really deep pit…” Tami sings. Oh yes! Have we not all been in a pit? Thank God that “Jesus Brought Me Out” which is the name of the song. (If you are not familiar with the beautiful blend of three voices go to their website and ENJOY!)
So, I got to thinking about the word “PIT”….I mean….really thinking….. doing a bit of RESEARCH even. HUMMMMMM This is VERY deep, folks, literally and figuratively, just a **warning**. Yes, let’s talk about this “pit”. Depression? Yes, of course, but I would like to talk about another type of pit. The pit kind where thousands upon thousands of people who suffered from mental illness were physically thrown into years ago. Have you ever seen the old black and white movie called “The Snake Pit”? It is a four star movie made many moons ago about a woman who was thrown into such a pit filled with hundreds of others – that’s the kind of pit that I am talking about now. A “pit” filled with the CrAZys, the luNaTIcS, the OuTcaStS of SOCIETY! During the 16th century, asylums were established more or less to house the mentally ill who were abandoned by family. They were cruel dark places run by untrained individuals who treated them like animals, many of them were cuffed and had iron collars that gave only enough movement to feed themselves and, because of the short chains they had to sleep upright. The most famous institution was called Bedlam located in London, England where patients were treated terribly and the violent ones were put on display like side show freaks for the price of a penny. Unfortunately, other countries followed the same idea. **I KNOW THIS IS DISTURBING BUT IT REALLY HAPPENED!** That is how it used to be. That was then and this is now. Now through many decades of reform, people who are mentally ill are treated well if they need to be hospitalized. We have Therapy! Medications that work! Support Groups! Wellness plans! Education! Peer-to-Peer Groups! And yes! Even a few psychiatrists who have their own mental illnesses! (not a joke). Thank God, things have changed.
There still is a pit called depression. I have suffered with it. Sometimes up to six months at a time…. But I was treated with kindness and compassion. And when I came to a place where I FOUND THE ANSWER TO THE PAIN I WAS IN – through no one else but Jesus Christ himself – It was then that I learned how to be set free from it! That is why the song that The Stevens Family wrote is so near and dear to my heart….because what happened to me was just that….”Jesus Brought Me Out” and HE can do the SAME FOR YOU!
Jesus said “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he (will eat) with Me.” Rev. 3:20 Amplified Bible