What’s that on your ankle?

25 Jun

There is so much I want to say. I apologize in advance if this gets disjointed or disorienting or discombobulating.

First, I want to sincerely thank everyone who has reached out to me with love and support. I may have turned off comments on the original post, but several people found ways to let me know that they were thinking of me, or praying for me, or supporting me, or all of the above. I am way too mentally disorganized to properly individually thank all of you, but I will try, and until then, know that I have read your words of kindness and support and I treasure them.

Second, I meant to emphasize this in the last post, so I will emphasize it again here. It’s ok, even normal, to feel sad and cry sometimes. It’s not okay and it’s not normal to feel sad everyday. It’s not normal to not be able to get out of bed because your anxiety won’t let you.  If you are stuck in a dark place, please don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Call a therapist. Call a friend. If it’s a really dark place, please call a suicide hotline or 911 right away. At the very least, you can call me. I don’t have a map out of this cave of constant darkness, but we can share a flashlight together. I will post some links to some resources at the bottom of the post, if you need them.

Because, I can personally attest, once you open up and give people the chance to reach out to you, the universe will reward you in many amazing ways. That sounds all weird and too touchy-feely for someone as sarcastic and caustic as me, but bear with me for a second.

I was released from the inpatient hospital program on Friday. I felt like I had just come out of a sensory deprivation chamber and was completely overwhelmed, being out in the real world. Husband and I were supposed to celebrate my freedom with a dinner date in downtown Naperville. But I’m still not myself yet, I’m still not whole. We walked into the steakhouse and I couldn’t breathe, it was too loud and there were too many people.

So we went to Walgreen’s and had a picnic with food you can buy from Walgreen’s. It was surprisingly good – lunchables, string cheese, pringles, yogurt covered pretzels, and Lindt truffles. And we found a deserted spot on the Naperville river walk and spread out a $5 beach towel and feasted. And it was perfect.


Us, making a new normal.

I don’t remember now how we spent Saturday. My short term memory seems to be another casualty of the new med regimen, or maybe just the trauma of being in two hospitals for several days. But Sunday, we went to the church service at the Beverly Unitarian Church. It’s the Castle, the church I grew up in, the church we were married in. We went to say goodbye to our minister – it was her last regular sermon. And also to say hello – I am pretty involved with the administration of the church, and I had disappeared during some very important times. There is a part of the service called ‘Joys and Concerns’ or ‘Candles of Community’ where members share the joys, concerns, hopes, important events, etc., of their lives, and we light candles for them. I took a deep breath, I stood up, and I explained where I had been for the past few weeks. And I asked that the candle be lit, not for me, but for those still in the hospitals, that those who need help will reach out for it, and a separate candle for Ken, for his amazing compassion and dedication to his wife.

After service, our own “Monarch Midwife” approached me. She regularly finds caterpillar eggs and helps them hatch into monarch butterflies. She had brought a mason jar with three chrysalises to service, knowing she was supposed to give it to someone. And now, she said, she knew she was meant to give them to me, for my new beginnings.

I presented the jar to Daniel when he burst through the room (he’s often hard to find after service, chasing after the bigger boys, hiding in the nooks and crannies of the castle, etc.). And, amazingly, one of the butterflies hatched right then and there.


He was very impressed.

We were told the butterfly was a boy, based on the patches on his wings. Daniel promptly named him Johnny Cash. We drove him home in his mason jar, waiting a few hours to release him so he could gain his strength. To comfort him, I played ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ with my phone up against the mason jar. By the way he flapped his wings, I think he liked it. As soon as we got home, and we were sure he was ready, Johnny Cash was set free to fly to San Antone, or wherever his wings would take him.

The remaining butterflies turned out to be girls. Daniel named them Dolly Parton and Taylor Swift. They are also on their way south, hopefully finding Johnny Cash along the way.

Then there was the magic of yesterday. I am currently enrolled in an outpatient program. It’s all the way out in Plainfield, but it was picked since it worked with the insurance and a variety of other factors, including two very supportive people who live close by in case of panic attack emergency. (And thank you, Haywards, for taking me in when one happened, and thank you Paula, for lunch.) By the time I finished a long discussion with the program director, it was about 4:15 – just in time for me to hit awful traffic the whole way home. How does one kill time in Plainfield without overburdening their brother and not bothering their friend who is working, especially when a quick google search shows that there’s a tattoo parlor right around the corner?

Well, I’m sure you can guess that answer.




All those years of ballet – look how high that arch is!

Seriously, though, I posted the picture to facebook, but I didn’t post the explanation (unless you are Danish, in which case you probably get it.). In Denmark, the children are taught from an early age to make ‘Julehjerter’ or ‘Papirhjerter’ – Christmas hearts or paper hearts. (And according to Wikipedia, this tradition was started by Hans Christian Andersen?) Most Danish Christmas trees are decorated with them. My cousins and I know how to make them. And they remind me of my grandmother, Mormor. (In Denmark, you differentiate your grandparents based on which parent you are related to them through. Your mother’s mother is MorMor, where your father’s mother is FarMor, since “mor” is mother and “far” is father. So my grandfather should have been called MorFar, but that got screwed up somewhere along the way and we called him FarFar anyway.)

Anyway, back to Mormor. Her name was Vibeke, and she was ridiculously amazing. She moved to the States with a six year old and six month old twin boys and my grandfather, speaking no English. She left her sisters and family behind. And she made an amazing life for herself. She was a beautiful, intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate woman. She went back to college in the sixties, along with those twin boys, and made a new life for herself. She taught 5th and 6th graders for several years, inspiring several children – and her own grandchildren – with her curiosity, creativity, and pure love of learning for learning’s sake. And when she retired and got bored, she worked at a battered women’s shelter in Urbana.


Mormor (Vibeke) and Morfar/Farfar (Ingvar) on their wedding day.

And here’s the most amazing thing – she also battled depression. When I had a bad episode the winter of my sophomore year in high school, she understood. She told me she had suffered from the same thing, but that it was conquerable, and that she would always be in my corner.

She died that summer.

And, during this past month, since I first went into the hospital, I can’t stop thinking about her. How she knew what these demons looked like, she knew how it felt to wrestle them, and she knew how to beat them. I’m not a super spiritual person, but I have definitely felt her loving presence continuing to guide me this past month, and I hope to live up to her example.

So the Danish heart is for her. And for conquering depression. And for imperfect hearts that can still give – and receive – perfect love.

And the universe wasn’t done sending me rewards. By the time the tattoo was done, I was stuck driving in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm. I almost panicked, driving through the heavy rain on I-294. And as I sat on a red light on 95th Street, waiting to make the turn towards the driveway, sure enough, there was a rainbow waiting for me.

The storm’s not over yet. But I have received so many messages of love, the butterflies are on their way to Mexico, a rainbow shone on me, and I now carry a physical reminder of my grandmother everywhere I go. Thank you, universe or whoever, for all the rewards. It was worth reaching out.

And now, as promised, some links for people who need help reaching out, or know someone who does:

Suicide Hotlines: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433); 1-800-TALK (1-800-273-8255) (for 1-800-talk, press 2 para habla espanol.)

Online Resources:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health

Suicide Prevention Resource Center: http://www.sprc.org

And Some Support Groups:

Emotions Anonymous (a 12-step program, like AA with sponsors and meetings, but for people with emotional disorders and problems): http://www.emotionsanonymous.org

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: http://www.dbsaalliance.org

National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org

And, like I said above, page me, beep me, if you wanna reach me. I get it, and so did my family. And maybe the universe, or whoever or whatever you believe in, will send you some awesome rewards too.



4 Responses to “What’s that on your ankle?”

  1. sohobbes June 26, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    It’s ok to comment again. Ignore the previous message. Remain calm! All is well!

  2. Susan July 4, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    Ok, one says comment … One says don’t. I’m going to comment delete if you want I will not be offended. I am currently in therapy for depression and anxiety. Knowing that I am not alone or nuts is comforting. Reading your story about all of this is amazing and heart opening. I love the shark analogy. I have a thousand things to say but can’t articulate. I know our experiences are different but I thank you for sharing. Hugs, sharks and love. 🙂

  3. Susan July 4, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    Also, I think I was part of the Facebook experiment. All I was getting for weeks was fluff posts. Phil mentioned this to me and I just now found it… Silly Facebook. I subscribed. Your writing is beautiful and expressive I appreciate it.

  4. Philomena November 10, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    You likely have plenty of options, especially if you possess a
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