Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Good-Bye, Shane

March 23rd, 2015, it will be three years since my friend, Shane, died. For those three years I have been so angry with him, not only because that he died, but how he died. 

Shane was a unique spirit, that was the draw to him for many people. What I found intriguing about him was his brain, his intelligence, his ego. Those things combined made him an asshole but as my wife likes to say, "he was our asshole." He was and he is. 

His brain: he was so smart it was often scary. He could deduce like a wizard, knowing who the killer was in a thriller, how a movie or book would end ten pages in, the dynamics of a game. He was truly amazing. 

His ego: this was his friend and foe. He had a palpable relationship with his ego. Tug of war, fist fights, ravage lover. He never wanted a single person to test his ego, he never wanted anyone to... love or hate it either. That's how it seemed to me. I will never presume to know what was going on in his mind, this is only what I saw and observed. 

He never seemed compassionate about mental illness. His wife, my dear and best friend, lives with mental illness daily and like all people with mental illness, has suffered with it for decades. Shane seemed on many occasions to try and bully the illness out of her. When my breakdown happened, and I spent the next few months after just trying to clear out the fog, he was known to say how wrong I am for Melissa. No, he really had no sympathy for mental illness and just figured someone could just change their mind and behavior and be done with the illness. 

For three years following his death I was so angry with him, there were few times I could think of him and not feel anger. The reason behind that anger was two reasons: 1. he hurt my friend. When I am friends with someone, I am viciously loyal. And I am fiercely protective. So, when he died, he caused her such pain she is still reeling from it. 2. how he died. This is the hardest to write because to this day, I just cannot understand. 

The night he died, Amanda's mom called Melissa while Melissa was driving home from work. Melissa saw the number, thought it was Amanda, and answered with a cheery, "Hello, friend!" Then she was thunderstruck by the news, "Shane died." When she walked in the door, I could instantly see she'd been crying and then she told me. It didn't sink in, it wasn't possible, it didn't make sense. He was 37. 

There was a free falling sense for the next few hours as we went to Amanda's side, I held her briefly, which is not something Amanda and I do. It's not that we don't love each other, but we're both introverts and aren't really touchy feely. But she was in such pain and shock, the only thing I could do was hold her, and she fell into my arm and we sat silently and waited for the coroner to arrive. 

The next few weeks, my friendship with Amanda grew closer. She couldn't sit at home so she came to my house nearly every night. We talked, she talked, she needed to talk. I learned about Shane during those talks. My love for Shane teetered and often fell, but always came back. After six weeks we learned how he died and my anger came back. He was a huffer. For those who are not familiar with the term, it's someone who, "Inhalant abuse (commonly called "huffing") is the intentional inhalation of chemical vapors to attain a mental "high" or euphoric effect." 

His "drug" of choice was the canned air used to clean electronics. He went through cans and cans of it without any of us knowing. His health started to suffer a month before he died. He seemed to have a cold that wouldn't go away. He died because he was stupid. Plain and simple. He balked at mental illness while he lived and died in one. He found people who couldn't "shake" their illness as weak. Yet, his killed him. I was pissed for his hypocrisy. I was pissed by his blatant disrespect for the struggle people like Amanda and me go through. I was pissed, so very pissed, I could not see anything but him being an asshole. 

But then my anger faded and it hit me, my friend is dead. My wife's best friend is dead. He's gone. His whole life now packed in boxes, his mother childless, his ashes in an urn. I miss him. When my anger started to fade, I could see I really miss him. 

This is my good-bye letter to Shane, thanking him for the time he spent in my life, wishing he were still here, thanking him for loving my friend, for the laughs, for the talks, and the friendship. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Journey

The journey I know thus far began when I was 22. I started therapy to recover my past at 21 and a year later I started to fully remember. I remembered my brother Jonathan. The thing that bothers me the most, though I have very clear memories of him, I can see his face, I can see him, I remember him, I can find no records of him. I can find no photos, no public records, no birth certificates, though I haven't tried everything yet. I have almost come to the conclusion that he was a boy I knew but he wasn't my family. He died in front of me. I remember that clearly as well. I can see that night, though some of it staggering and stuttering in my mind's eye, I can tell you exactly what the place looked like, how the night began, what my parents were wearing, how the insects sounded outside the nearby window. I can even recall the smells that lingered in the air after he died.

I am going mad trying to find some evidence of all of this. I have pictures of a child that looks like me but then there is another picture of a child at the same age with different hair color, different style of clothing, slightly different smile. In 1969 and 1970, around the time these pictures were taken, the majority of the photos show a young person wearing masculine clothing. My question is, during that time frame, in that era, would parents dress their daughter in "boy" clothes? From what I have found in my research, no. It was considered "odd" to put a girl in boy clothes, even at very young ages. Another picture shows a baby posed for their first "real" picture and the onesy is covered in trucks and dogs, considered boy clothes.

Recently I started having a real relationship with my two older sisters, the ones I didn't grow up with and whom have a better grasp on reality. I want to ask them about my life at that age but they weren't in contact with my dad around then. They didn't have a relationship with him and from I can gather was never around.

Here is what I know:
My mom was best friends with a woman who worked in medical records in the hospital where I was born, she also worked for the county clerks office.
She followed my parents to Bloomington, IL. where I grew up, after we moved there from Cincinnati, OH, and after we moved there from Rockford, IL.
She remained my mom's best friend until her death.
During the time we lived in Rockford, there were a string of child deaths. A woman was arrested and convicted for those crimes. She lived on the same street, 4th avenue, as we did.
We moved to Cincinnati, OH into a townhouse.
Once we moved to Bloomington, we lived on McGregor street, I can remember every inch of the house we lived in, I can draw the house from memory. My uncle Terry lived with us.

So now I'm at an impasse. Going forward I see no solution to my quest, staying put leaves me wondering who I am and if by finding out those things I want to know will change me forever into someone I may not like. I'm starting to believe finding the answers won't really be answers, just more shame. A boy named Jonathan did live, I remember him.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

She Taught Me...

Every survivor knows what it means to remain strong for years upon years. I am not new to the concept, for over 40 years, strength compounding against my nerves, keep moving forward. Do not slow down, we tell ourselves, over and over. Whatever is needed to keep going, we do it.

Calm is similar to a lodged foreign body in the throat. It won’t kill you, not all at once, it takes awhile, it’s uncomfortable, it hurts. Over time it gets more noticeable.

During our life we saw the worst that humanity could do. Does that mean I lost faith in humanity? No! For many years I did not consider humanity, I shut it out and concealed myself, but then I met Melissa. I cannot write in adequate words the kind of soul Melissa has because words would insult the description. She is the kind of person who reminds you what being vulnerable in the right conditions can mean. How the tickle in the your stomach going down a slide can mean fun. She reminds me what love is, what kindness is, that hands don’t have to hurt.

She also taught me it is ok to slow down, she taught me it’s ok to be weak. She also taught me it’s ok to take a break, but not forget to get back up!

So, even though I may get tired from being too strong for too long, I can safely take a break. And when I’m ready, I can get back up on stronger legs, and continue on, with her by my side.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Embrace it!

I am broken. It isn't so bad. If one is broken, that means one can be repaired. I may not fit the mold of who I was but that person had a dickens of a time fitting into the mold of her parents design. I am free to repair into the image of my design.

I find it incredibly powerful to know no one else in this world can do my illness like me. It belongs to me! My illness, in good days or bad, is mine! I know it seems counter intuitive to embrace an illness, but when can I do? I can't get rid of it. It's like fighting an albatross. Instead, I choose to embrace it. I give it a name. I choose to call it not illness but rather... TennyPenny. I'm embracing it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My dad's birthday is soon

My dad's birthday is on November 13th. It's been ten years since he died. I feel like my memories of the past ten years go a little something like this...

I see him lying in the hospital bed, black and grey hair splashed against the stark white of the hospital pillows. A beige knit sweater type blanket covering the lower part of his body. He's breathing, he's aware of everything around him, but he can't move. There was a smell... on the tip of my tongue it tasted like decay. In my nose it felt like death crawled in.


Two days later my older sister was screaming at me over the phone asking why I would not return for the funeral.


Two months later I stood before my friend, Kristen, she said she was sorry to hear about my loss. I remembering shrugging, sort of to say, "Thank you? I'm not sure how I feel." But I do remember listening to "My Immortal" about 37 times a day for those two months.


2004: I started losing sleep.


2004: We moved from the rental house to the apartments.


2006: We bought a house, I worked for St Jude, I was in school.


2009: I get hired, I started failing school, I start missing work, I have surgery.


2010: I have a break down.

I didn't think of him much during my break down but I thought a lot about him after. Ten years goes by so fast, it really felt like a fast moving stream shuffling me through my everyday, hitting the occasional rock, feeling bumps and bruises, scrapes and tears against my skin, not knowing when I would stop.

Then I stopped this evening and remembered he is dead. I can't remember his voice, I threw away all of the pictures of him, his face is fading from memory. He isn't my father anymore. I'm still glad he's dead.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Since 2008, I have made YouTube videos. I talk about being MP, what it's like being MP, the Gang (as I call them) also make videos. I am told I help people. I am told my videos make a difference. But lately, along with everything going on, time of year, and so on, I have felt less like making videos. I almost feel as if I have said everything I can say about the topic.

The point of my videos is clear; one can gain cooperation with their system, the system is not the enemy, there are five steps to help gain cooperation, be kind to oneself, be kind to others, do not judge others. Pretty plain. Honestly, what more could I possibly say about it? After 250+ videos, it's all been said.

Yet, I feel like I'm abandoning my subscribers if I stop making videos. I suppose in a way I am. Not really abandoning but pausing. I haven't made a decent video in over a month and I can't honestly say I will be making one anytime soon. I feel disheartened by the process. I haven't had bad experiences on YouTube, strangely enough. I have not been hounded or harassed by trolls or haters. I have met some amazing women and men on YouTube. And I helped people.

So, what is this feeling? Why do I want to stop? Why do I want to do a farewell video, thank everyone for watching, and just stop making videos? I wish I knew.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Baking Season Has Begun!!

When I was younger, say, around 11 through 15, my dad baked. It was the few times in my life I can remember looking at him and seeing something very close to peace. He made everything from scratch and from memory. Cookies, pies, cakes, everything made by his hands, no electric mixer, no stand up mixer, he made meringue by hand. He stood in the small kitchen of our double wide trailer and for fifteen minutes, whipped egg whites and sugar to perfection. He allowed me to watch him bake. We shared a quiet moment, neither of us speaking, he taught in movements, never words.

If I had to inherit anything from him, I am glad it is the love for baking. I crave it during this time of year, when the air is cool, the mornings crisp, and turning the oven on doesn't feel like satan's asshole. I make breads, cakes, cookies, pies, all from scratch. And all the while, I lose myself in the process. Nothing enters my mind except the next step, the next ingredient, the next part of the culinary puzzle. My shoulders ease, my posture loosens, and I relax. After the tumultuous two and a half months before, this next part of the year brings me to full life. With flour on my forehead, with butter caked between my fingers, I watch the day rise along with my breads, and for a little while, I forget I am a survivor and I just relish in the desserts.