Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oh for the Young

When my daughter was young and we were at McDonald's, she looked at me very inquisitively as she sipped on a milkshake, and asked--is this a Shakespeare?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I am working on creating a newspaper page that I am hoping will generate funds for as well as and for  I am hoping to learn the process for a 501c3 non-profit.  The page is a work in progress and may be found at

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Protecting Self: Do I Hold Back?

I feel constrained in my writing to some extent because family and friends are still alive.  If I shared everything, it would be like opening Pandora's box.  You would not believe it, if I shared all of my life story.  I feel like I have to hold back because for so long I lived with fear.

Typing these words even places fear in my body.  Do I write about the secrets so closely held or perhaps speak in metaphors, which only complicates the matter.  I think to some extent my mental issues exhibited themselves metaphorically because I was afraid.

I was conditioned to not speak about things that were not right.  I don't know now how to talk about them, so I continue to skirt the topic and really am confused about opening up.  There were so many events from the orphanage, to abuse in the hospitals by staff and abuse within my own family because technically, there were no parents.  The kids were in charge; I was the youngest.  I feel afraid to share more about our family because each sibling is struggling with his/her own issues.

I'll write more tomorrow, I need time to figure this part out.  Maybe that is why I write poetry and songs.  I love playing the guitar to release tension.   

Monday, January 19, 2015

John Lennon's "Imagine"

I was living in Detroit and in sixth grade when I first heard "Imagine," by John Lennon.  I remember, I really liked the song, the beat, the notion that all the people could get along.  I guess it is also the first time I began challenging my Catholic Faith.  Being reared in such a strict Faith, even having to go to Mass on my birthday reinforced everything I knew.  All of the kids, that attended the school were pretty much Catholic.

Today my friends over the years are really loyal to Catholic Faith or Christianity, while I have fallen away.  I feel somewhat of a disconnect with them because their postings even reflect their Faith, while mine is simple, my God has no Faith or religion, at least, not at this time.  I feel comfortable with that, for the most part, except the reality is even my siblings and ex-tended family practice the Faith.

I feel I am in a better place, spiritually, emotionally and mentally now than I have ever been.  I feel I am able to express myself without fear of reprisal other than chastisement through words.  I desire to understand world religions, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, regions, politics and so much more.  I want to learn how to be a catalyst for peace beginning within my own family.

I want to not only to embrace the human experience, I want to live the human experience and in my fifties I feel I have chartered a new course for success.  I may not be wealthy, but I feel I have enough life experiences now to help others and perhaps with proper guidance produce a book worth reading.

I "Imagine" me being Happy.  There was a worker at St. Lawrence Hospital whom I really liked.  She had the word "Imagine," tattooed on her arm.  She worked with me when I was patient.  I had no clothes, so she would try to help me find some in their donated closet.  Others were not aware I had no clothes, and I was not good at communicating this.  Sometimes I slept in the back room because workers didn't realize where my bedroom was supposed to be, and I was even kicked out of my bedroom when I would try to go to my bed because of communication barriers.

I was in a terribly vulnerable state.  No one knew of my former successes as a mother, writer and teacher.  I was out of my head thanks to complications from inappropriate care in Pontiac.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Believing In Yourself When The World Says...

How does one move forward when the world says you will not advance in life? This nearly happened to me at the age of eighteen.  Had I listened to the medical community I would not have more than one degree.  I would never have been a wife, a mother, substitute teacher, writer, girl scout leader and service unit manager, VFW Ladies Auxiliary Member looking to support our troops who have been left forgotten.  I would never have worked with special needs.

But I, I chose not to listen because my Aunt refused to let me listen when I was eighteen.  I had taken all the required coursework by my junior year of high school and was working at Beaumont Hospital when my dreams were nearly dashed due to a schizophrenia diagnosis, which has changed several times since.  My senior year, I took government and religion and graduated with my class.  I was on the road for college academically because my grade point average was high and had been accepted into every university I applied to.  Had I listened to the medical community, I would have been in a group home by eighteen.

I have had many struggles in my life, but I have had a life and for that I am grateful.  I cannot give up because I must set the example for my adult children that you must never give up.  I have had many obstacles, but I have had many successes too.  I have been fortunate to meet legislators, personalities and many people who have influenced me positively.

I never consider myself to be out of work because my work for a day may be as simple as a smile, or putting on a shoe, helping a stranger with laundry or being a listening ear for my children who are making their life choices.

Writing is my work even if I am not currently pulling in a paycheck.  I write because I have a passion for writing and because I never know when something I say may help a fellow human being.

My life is dedicated now to peace and helping others understand why I have my own peace, peace of mind, body and spirit.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Veterans You Never See

Locked away in the halls you'll find, the veterans who've lost their minds.
The things they've seen tormented and torn, leaving them tired, angry and worn,
Some have lost limbs, families too, and the friends they had-- don't know what to do.

In every country, in every nation; veterans are afflicted
The orphaned widows and children abandoned by systems
With endless victims trapped in a cloud.

The days of youth slowly pass by, as veterans lay in beds wondering if they were better off being dead.
Sunni's, Shia, Hindi, Chaplains, Priests and numerous others try to mend the divide.
While mothers, daughters, wives and children wring their hands and can only cry. 

For the pain and suffering born of war
Avenging the act consumes the mind 
By many of those left behind

Does the pendulum ever stop to allow rational minds to agree
On accords that will serve all, not just the few?
So lives may be lived and tears will be no more

While healing hands comfort the soul
And children can play without rubble hills
And the stories of elders may be passed on down

Cultures preserved, but allowed to evolve
So young are not afraid to speak their minds
Extremism is not the norm

Pick up the pen 
And write your lines
Of pain, hurt, and troubled lives

So younger generations 
Will understand bearing arms does not make the man
The example one sets is all one has.

Note:  Poetry grants me reprieve from the harshness that I've seen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Father David Survived A Bullet

Father David was a Catholic Priest at Highland Park's St. Benedict's Church.  He was Filipino, and he was my favorite Priest.  When he would give me Communion, he would say, "this is Jesus and He loves you."  He was so different from Fr. Allen an American who was tired, old and must have had high blood pressure because he was always flush in the face.  Perhaps, I shouldn't say this, but the only thing I liked about Fr. Allen was you knew the Mass would be short because his Homilies could have been time spots for commercials.

Fr. David was kind, gentle and soft spoken.  He made me feel loved.  When I listened to him speak, I felt immersed in what he was saying.  I felt the love of Christ because Fr. David made Christ real to me.  Sadly, a part of me misses that unquestioning belief.

One day, someone broke into the Church and robbed the coffers not even hesitating to shoot Father David.  I was heart sick hearing it on the News.  Father David survived, but they were unable to remove the bullet.

He later served as the Pastor for a Filipino Community in Michigan until he passed.  I am not certain of the exact cause of death, but I am fairly sure the bullet had something to do with it.  I went to the Funeral Home to say goodbye to Fr. David.

Whatever one's belief, Fr. David was the epitome of an angel.

Copy and Paste the website below, If interested in a book that addresses Struggles with Faith.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

I Closed My Father's Eyes

In November 2002, as we were approaching Thanksgiving, my father lay in a hospital bed at the John Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit.  I was completing a class in Writing for Writing Teachers at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.  I wrote a poem about Muhammed Ali, which may be pulled up from an earlier blog.

My father was dying from a glioblastoma (a terminal brain tumor).  The irony, at the age of 17, I had worked for neurosurgeons, so I knew the prognosis.  My father fought in WWII having joined the Army in 1943.  He graduated in 1942, and it was a matter of time before he would be drafted.  He would fight on three fronts: Africa, Germany and France.  He arrived in France right after the Battle of the Bulge.  He was a member of Charlie Company.  His job was to run ahead and string the lines for communication.  He actually was offered the opportunity to stay stateside, but being young, he later said he wanted to go overseas like his buddies.

My father struggled mentally with the things he had seen in war.  Most times he did not talk about the war, but there are a few things he shared.  He told me how there was a time, the tower he and another fellow were in was being shot at, and the best thing they could do was jump because it was going to come down.

Another time, he was separated from his troop and wound up three miles behind enemy lines.  The most horrific memory he shared with me was when the unit came upon a town in Germany, allied troops including Americans were sitting in their jeeps and trucks with their heads blown off.  He conveyed to me that an anger rose in him that he never felt before.

He fired his weapon, but he said he was never sure if he killed anyone.  I got the feeling he was trying to protect me.  Dad said, he felt badly every time they occupied a person's home.  

He did like being able to pass chocolate Hershey Bars out to the children.  My father was a devout Catholic and indicated he never missed a Mass while enlisted.  I am not sure how this was possible especially when engaged in battle, but I was not there, and I never questioned him, or as a child perhaps I misinterpreted what he had said.

After the war, my Uncle indicated that my father was not acting right and so he urged him to go to the VA for medical attention.  Dad would later be diagnosed with schizophrenia.  My belief not being a medical doctor would be that a more accurate diagnosis would be schizophrenia with the onset of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Another term that was used was Shell Shock, which "wiki" says went out of use by WWII, but my father used the term.

My father would experience on an off hospitalizations, but not as frequently as my mother who suffered with an initial diagnosis of schizophrenia, which would later be changed to schizoaffective bipolar disorder.  My mother actually had more hospitalizations.  Her first hospitalization was sometime between 1942 and 1943. She did graduate from high school in 1943.  My mother then attended secretarial school in Detroit and graduated.

My parents were introduced through a blind date and married late at the age of thirty-four in, 1959. I was born in, 1963.  My folks did the best they could with the abilities they had, and the trauma they endured.

When I was born, my mother indicated upon being released from the hospital, a longer time in those days, she ran to Nuns to show me to them.  Within a short period of time, my mother had a breakdown and had to be hospitalized.  I would spend nearly the next two years with my relatives.

In July of 1965, I was sent to live at St. Vincent Sarah Fisher Home for Children. You would not necessarily think a child less than two would be able to recall details from such a young age, but even I am amazed at times by how much I recall.

In those days it was the hope that families could be reunited, but there were foster parents and adoptions were arranged.  I would spend the next ten years living in the orphanage with visits to my dad's and relatives.  Honestly, I only remember the picture of my mother on the dresser at my relative's home.  In the spring, when I was six my family and the orphanage informed me I would be going home when I turned seven to start school.

I had liked my mother when I met her, and she had taken me to see the public school where I would be attending.   I could not fathom what happened next, on my birthday, I was told I was not going home because my mom was not well.

For a long time, I blocked that birthday out of my mind.  I thought it snowed on my birthday... I had a summer birthday.  It was bitterly cold and later I remembered Sr. Margaret Ann invited my siblings along with the other children in the cottage to an outdoor party.  The wind was blowing and the candles would not remain lit.  I never did get to blow them out.  I always had to go to Mass on my birthday because in the Catholic faith, I was born on the Assumption of Mary.  Talk about getting confused, well I did.

As a child, I was a devout Catholic because the orphanage was run by the Daughters of Charity and my family reinforced the belief system.  We had guitar Masses with Fr. Tom and the Nuns on Holy Days of Obligations and on Sundays. I learned to properly fold the altar cloths for Mass.  On occasion I even made the bread for communion.  I made my First Holy Communion at the orphanage.

When my father would pick me up, and I would ask when are we going home? His response was always the same, "in God's own time."  After ten years, I did go home, but I was extremely confused about the situation because I was closer to my other relatives.  When I lived at the orphanage it was rare that I ever went to stay at my father's home on weekends as my other relative would be available to pick me up.

On the day I was to go home, I felt horrible because I was waiting in the front living room unattended with another child.  I was watching out the window for my folks car.  Something I always did when I was able to see the car, but then I would run to another location and pretend like I had been playing. On the particular day I was to go home, I was so nervous I don't know what was wrong with me, I socked the other girl in the eye for no reason, and I immediately apologized and begged her not tell. We had always been good friends.  I know her well enough that she would laugh if I shared that she was black and it was not apparent that she had been socked, but for sure it hurt, but she loved me enough to not tell and not to hit back.  To this day I am sorry about that situation.

All the girls gathered together with Sr. Helen to wave goodbye to me.  I was filled with mixed emotions.  I was leaving all my friends behind and going to a home that was still foreign to me.  I was also leaving every single friend I had in school.

I would be attending St. Benedict's Catholic School for sixth grade in Highland Park, MI.  I actually left, in July 1975, the same month I had arrived ten years earlier.  Just prior to my leaving my social worker, asked why I had not mentioned to her about having been told I was going home when I was seven.  I did not answer because I honestly think up till that moment the incident was blocked from my mind.

My father became ill that year and I actually thought my mother was the more stable one.  The transition for my father and I was very challenging.  My father had become angry with the neighbors, and I vividly remember him saying as he rolled up his sleaves, "Come on, I'll take you both on."  The next thing I knew, as I was standing on my front porch at my home in Detroit, my father was in an all out brawl with the neighbors.  His glasses finally fell off and if Muhammed Ali wore glasses, well you know he was missing every punch without them.

Finally, he settled down and drove himself to the VA.  I would walk to and from school.  Eventually, I met a little girl named, Jessica, and we would walk together to and from school.  I also met a boy who lived in my neighborhood John D.

My father's psychiatrist started seeing me as well when he was being treated after the incident with the neighbors.  I did not know he was a psychiatrist at the time. He was very nice and had a beard. His name was Dr. Drunken, ha, ha that is how I remember his name.  I know it started with a "D" and sounded like that.

Dr. Drucker, I remembered his name, spoke in quiet calm voice and I liked that. My father was scary to me at times.  Sometimes my father would yell.  I was always raised by women so a man's voice scared me when elevated.  Well, actually, Seminarians, who were men considering the Priesthood would visit on weekends, but I never heard them yell.  My eldest sibling had lived with my folks when he was young and had stayed home for a year when I was supposed to join him at the age of seven.  He had to return to the orphanage when Mom got sick.  My father would drink coffee, and one time I recall him describing how fellas would spin a gun on a table when drinking and playing Russian Roulette.

Sr. Adeline, my homeroom teacher at school, permitted me to work with her on extra projects.  I would pin things on the bulletin board and wash the boards.  I never told her my father was ill, but I did tell her I thought I would like to be a Nun.  Sr. Germaine, the principal, actually graduated with my father from St. Benedict's High School and would later be my geometry instructor at Shrine High School.

Sr. Germaine was kind to me and invited me to be a hall monitor, the little girl who was shorter than all her classmates, but could swing a fist if challenged, it was a beautiful way to keep me in school when I had lost my temper and hit a girl who was provoking me to a fight.  The other girl never picked on me again, but I guess now a days I would be kicked out of school for awhile.  I liked Sister's method better by giving me responsibility to help care for the younger children.  She made me a safety patrol girl and I was given a yellow safety patrol belt to wear.  I never acted up again at the school.  I remember Sr. Germaine liked to listen Roger Whitaker.  I learned I enjoyed his music too.

My father would eventually qualify for disability, but continued to work for the J.L. Hudson's Co. He ran around the block giving rides on the sled when he found out he qualified for the disability, which would help with his income.

The neighborhood was becoming more difficult to live in with robberies including our own home and the straw that broke the camel's back, my mother was hit over the head along with an elderly neighbor lady when they cashed their social security checks at NBD Bank on John R. in Detroit.

Our family moved in 1977, to Royal Oak.  Our parents made sure we had a Catholic education and we attended parochial school till we completed high school.

I had mixed emotions about my folks.  Three days after my eighteenth birthday, I had my first breakdown.  I was upset, angry, confused and really doubted my Catholic upbringing.  I was admitted to Beaumont Hospital, yes, the place where I worked.  It was Monday, August 18, 1981, a date I would never forget.  I was delusional and I was extraordinarily confused about my identity and who was my real mother, my aunt or my biological mother, both were present when I was admitted.

In the beginning, I was doing semi okay upon medication that Doctor Kaprilian prescribed.  At one point, a woman was choking and I remembered the Heimlich Maneuver and performed it without thinking I am in a Hospital.  Anna, an older patient, immediately had the object shoot out from her throat.  The patients said I did a good job and the staff acknowledged it was good off the record, but never do it again.  One black guy, who was an EMT, who was a patient, though I don't remember his name, told me I did everything correctly.

Eventually, however, I was delusional about the women there and was questioning if any of them were Nuns.  I entered into catatonia and wound up with a bed sore.  Prior to that happening on a Sunday morning I had spoken with my dad and told him I was being released.  He said he couldn't come until after Mass. When dad showed up, we were moving towards the door, when my he asked, "don't we need your medication?" I did not know exactly what to say and said yes. That was it, I was not being released and that is when my progress went downhill. Dr. Kaprilian went on vacation for a week and his replacement Doctor couldn't convince me he wasn't Dr. Kaprilian.

I had worked for Doctors Latimer, Scratch and Boodin.  Dr. Latimer arranged for me to be transferred to a teaching hospital, Lafayette Clinic in Detroit, a collaborative effort with Wayne State University.  I worked with a Dr. and regressed to infancy even falling out of bed.  They had to put a rail on the bed and then slowly one of the aids had to constantly work with me to first sit on the bed and ease my legs over to the center of the bed so I would not fall out again.  I had chipped my front tooth and was scared to death of falling out of bed.

When I was first placed there, I was placed in a chair with the one I was in tied to the back of another chair while a woman knitted. I was tied in.  I would rock the chair I was in and said my name with all the names I was given repeatedly including my confirmation name, which was the one my biological mother used to identify herself.  I remember spelling Hell and using my eldest sibling's name and by that time I would be free.  It happened more than once.

Ultimately, I was placed in a straight jacket.  I figured out how to dislocate my shoulders and popped out of that too.  I was no genius, I was scared, frightened and desperate.  Mr. H. maybe his name will come to me too said, "who are you Houdini."

I was locked in seclusion more than once.  I had accidents, but there was a kind black lady who never complained and sometimes we would laugh together.  She was the same one who taught me how to get in and out of the bed.  I know she sometimes got frustrated reminding me how to get in the bed, but she still taught me.

I was taking Navane a new class of drug at the time and a drug I had to sign for because of possible tardive dyskinesia.

Finally, I was brought in front of a group of clinicians who evaluated me to be released.  It had been discussed that I should go to a group home, but my aunt would not allow it.  She wanted to take me home, which she did.  I accidentally, flooded her bathroom with the water in the tub when I didn't know how to turn it off.

When I had been at Sarah Fisher, I had never taken a shower before until I moved to an older cottage outside of when we took group showers running in at the beach house to get wet.  I jumped in the shower at the home and immediately jumped out because I did not realize the hot water had to come up.  I taught myself how to turn on water at the home and often got confused by blue and red colors, I didn't know the meaning.  I had to learn how to flush toilets alone.  I learned not to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

I watched the clock not knowing what it meant and when I was supposed to be asleep.  I now know I often had insomnia and the Nuns eventually placed a vaporizer in the room because I snored.

My Aunt was determined to help me make a full recovery.  She took me to Immaculata High School in Detroit to finish my high school education.  One day while she and my uncle were at work, I felt so over medicated and depressed, I took the full bottle of Navane. I went outside and lay down in the snow and waited to die.  Well, I got cold and nothing was happening.  I went inside and told my uncle what I had done, but he wasn't sure about the situation.  My Aunt ran me to the emergency room and the Doctor indicated it was probably the cold that slowed my heart rate down. They flushed my system with charcoal.  My Aunt spent the night with me at the hospital and the next day I was allowed to go home.

I graduated with my class, I did go off the medication for seven years and worked while attending college.  I did not have another break until, 1989, when my daughter was born.  Again I went off the medication for four years and suffered another break postpartum.  My children never had medication during the pregnancy.

I definitely questioned whether they had the illness.  The diagnosis seems to always be in flux.  My initial diagnosis was schizophrenia, then schizoaffective bipolar then bipolar.

Over the years, I learned to accept my parents for whom they were.  By the time my father passed away, I had come to terms with what had happened.

He lay on his death bed, and I closed his eyes while my mother sat in a wheel chair.  The Chaplain was Filipino and a Colonel.  I felt so humbled as the Chaplain saluted my father.  As my eldest sibling was making arrangements for the funeral home, I heard my father release his final breath.  At that moment, my mind was at ease with his death.

My father had a military funeral aside from the 21 gun salute.  My eldest sibling was also in the military and a train stopped on Main Street for the many cars.  When we reached Woodward Avenue traffic was stopped in both directions.

My father had touched the lives of many people with his smile, poetry and quick wit.  He had kept his personal struggles private for many years, but I believe he reconciled himself with who he was. Though I did not understand my parents relationship, the love of 43 years, I came to realize it was not my place to judge. They had been there for us as best they could, and we were there for them.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Suicide of a Friend

In some ways the Mental Health System has improved, but there are so many areas that remain an absolute disgrace that no normal individual would ever be the same after witnessing the injustices that exist.  The only way to move on is to block it from one one's memory.

When I was twenty-five and placed at Clinton Valley Psychiatric Hospital, which no longer exists, there were unimaginable things that happened.  I was first at Providence and had Dr. Baima? sp.

Clinton Valley placed individuals in seclusion beyond the number of hours permitted by law.  I too experienced this and wound up urinating on myself.

There was a woman who would walk stark naked in a narrow circle.  When it was time for showers, individuals would line up.

One day, I was so frustrated that I pushed a woman aside and confused the woman dispensing medication by taking her dose plus my own.  The poor woman dispensing the medication was Asian, and she clearly was confused, but because she had looked down for the next dose without really observing the switch and with the number of people in line, she opted to give me the medication. Well, obviously I survived.

There were people that cared including a wonderful attendant named Fatima. Fatima told me she had heard about me and believed I could be successful.  I was speaking various foreign fragments of languages that I was exposed to over the years.  I was praying in my own way.  I was referencing God in all the languages I had ever heard the name spoken.

While there, I met a young Asian Woman.  She and I became friends.  One day she was no longer at the Hospital, and I asked the Doctor what had happened to her.  The Doctor explained that her parents had felt she could receive treatment at home.  The cultural divide was wide. The Doctor, also of Asian descent continued that when she went home, she committed suicide.  I felt a void in my soul like I had not felt before.

A relative of mine who was always instrumental in my success in coping with the illness remained loyally committed to my attaining my sanity once again.  With the support of this relative, medications and my in-laws, I discovered the strength within to move forward with my life.

Welcoming me, was a precious little baby girl I had brought into this world.  My duty was then to serve her as the best Mom I could be.  I enjoyed the role of Motherhood.  I reveled in her progress and in her exploration of the world.

I moved into a home, which later became more of a house of horrors, but more on that later.  My daughter grew and she loved to smile, dance and sing.  She began preschool and because I had my degree, I was able to substitute teach both my daughter and later my son from preschool on up. Obviously, I never shared my struggles about mental illness with the work world.  I had years without episodes and the triggers tended to come from home problems.  I was able to work successfully for years by blocking these things from my mind.

I hope one day that my children will know that I did the best I could in light of the circumstances and that I left them with a better skill set having moved on from some extraordinarily difficult situations myself.  I am in the second chapter of my life, as my children are now adults and together, hopefully, we can generate an attitude that will help all individuals impacted by mental illness in a positive way.