THERE’S NO PLACE IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR MENTAL ILLNESS

Mental Health/Journal Notes/Slice of Life
by:  Sheri de Grom

Notes From My Journal – Monterey, California
Late 1990s

My Grandmother Fromm taught me the importance of keeping a journal when I was 8. She said,

My Grandmother Fromm taught me the importance of keeping a journal when I was 8. She said, “It is never simply a record of daily events.”

My office on Fort Ord was quieter than usual: no laughter, chatter or copy machines running. Usually the investigators bantered with each other and the phones never stopped ringing. When had the silence settled in? Had another day passed me by?

Glancing up from my stack of folders, I saw Mike, my deputy, standing in my office doorway. He hadn’t made a sound; one of his unique qualities that always amazed me. I marvel at his ability to hold one pose motionless for hours on end. He’d told me it was a talent he’d honed along with his sharpshooter skills. He’d never shared with me exactly when he’d needed that expertise and I hadn’t asked. We’d shared the shooting range often enough to know that we could cover each other with confidence.

“Hey you, how long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to know that we both have to get out of here. It’s almost nine-thirty and I heard you tell Cecelia [editorial note – my secretary] earlier that you were still going to the hospital tonight. I know for a fact that you haven’t had anything to eat in several hours, if at all today.”

Leave it to Mike to call it the way he saw it.

“And what have you eaten today?”

“Remember, I had that delicious lunch at the nursing home.” His body tensed and his hand grazed his belt as if the memory were physically painful. “I hope I live long enough on their food to finish the investigation.”

“We’ve seen the winning results of those meals haven’t we?” Mike went on to tell me how the patients’ lunches had consisted of chili dogs, potato chips, cooked cabbage and peaches in heavy syrup. Every tray the same. No allowances were made for diabetic or other medical nutritive needs and the high sodium content alone made the entire meal unacceptable. The indigestible component of the food for the patient population being served broke every rule.

Nursing home fraud routinely uncovers massive irregularities concerning patient nutrition. Thousands of dollars are saved annually by ignoring Federal guidelines.

We’d started our investigation as a Veterans Affairs fraud case but fraud opened up wherever we turned at the nursing home. We had no idea where this case was taking us, but it wasn’t going to be pretty. Every item we examined revealed additional improprieties.

“What do you say boss, let’s get out of here and go grab dinner.”

“I’d love to but I really must go the hospital.” The internist promised she’d keep me informed, but that’s not enough. How can I say Tom is my top priority when I’d admitted him that morning and hadn’t visited or called all day?

Suddenly I felt weird, the all-too familiar and uncontrollable perspiration running from every pore, and makeup slithering down my face. My hair was oily and wet and so was every inch of my body. Did I smell? My clothes stuck to me.

I couldn’t pull enough air into my lungs, my breath quickened but air came raw into my throat. Suffocating. There was that sensation of a trapdoor suddenly opening in my belly. Oh, God. Please don’t let me soil myself. My heart wanted to jump out of my chest . . . I was sure it could . . . it would . . . that was my heartbeat roaring in my ears, wasn’t it? It was uncomfortable to swallow; the perspiration intolerable.

I’d always worked hard to maintain my image—a professional woman. Could this be God’s way of saying, the joke’s on you? Was it my fault that Tom suffered?

My hands tingled and then they didn’t. Why couldn’t I feel anything? Had I lost touch with reality?

“Sheri, Sheri . . . can you hear me . . . it’s Mike. You’re here with me and you’re safe.”

I felt a hand on my arm and jerked.

“Don’t touch me. I feel so grungy.” I cringed. “I’ll never be clean. I need a shower.”

My legs folded under me. I wanted to stand, but couldn’t. Touching my lips, the tips of my fingers were wet. Blood. I’d bitten my lips so hard they bled.

“Sheri, breathe. Come on, deep breaths. Follow me. In-out. That’s it, now repeat. Over and over.”

I was calming down. My heartbeat was slowing. But I was still covered in sweat. The worst feeling ever.

I lay on my office floor; how could I compose myself after what had just happened? Even more puzzling, what had just happened?

Mike bent down and supported me while I stood up.

“Boss lady, you’ve given me one hell of a scare. We’re not going to do whatever that was again. I’m going to play Dr. Mike for the duration of the VA case plus all the other stuff you have going. You need a good meal and a way to blow off steam so you can focus on whatever you think you must do.”

“That’s quite a speech, partner.”

“Indeed it is. Now, if you like, you mentioned feeling dirty. I don’t see you that way but if you insist, I’ll give you time for a shower before we eat. However, don’t plan on my being so lenient in the future.”

“Yes, sir. Might I ask who made you the boss of me?”

“I thought that was pretty obvious. You asked God for help and I’m here. You know, our Lord does work in mysterious ways.”

“Don’t be a smart-ass.”

But in my mind, I was thanking God for this particular smart-ass.

“Go get your shower and no you don’t have time for makeup and all that girly stuff. I’ll pop us a couple potatoes in the microwave while you’re doing your thing.”

Standing on tiptoe and leaning in, I warned, “Don’t you touch me.”

Mike’s mischievous grin and flashing blue eyes were music to my seriously bruised and battered heart; I planted a kiss on his forehead.

One of the best features of having our offices in an old WWII barracks building was that plumbing was in place. No one had ever thought to take out the toilet and shower between each office. My theory was simple. I was a workaholic and I wanted some comforts of home. My shower connected to my office; how convenient is that?

I didn’t know what had happened to me earlier but I did know that I’d lost it and was sure that it was a result of trying to hold everything together and pretend I was coping, when in fact, I was falling apart.

I was sacrificing myself for everyone else and I didn’t need anyone telling me how that would turn out if I kept up my current pace.

Clean skin, clean hair . . . nothing in the entire world felt better . . . wel . l . l . not unless I could slip into a bed with crisp, clean sheets with Tom. But, that was a fantasy.

Pulling on favorite faded jeans and an old familiar flannel shirt brought a smile to my heart.

Lord, it was good to touch something as simple as a well-loved flannel shirt and have it fill my heart with pleasure.

I found a pair of socks to match my shirt and padded without shoes into Mike’s office.

“Wow, you’ve gone all out.”

His office had become a quiet library setting. He’d moved his lamps to softly accent the walls of books. They cast a glow across his leather-bound collector editions with their scripted gold lettering along the spine, soft jazz played in the background.

“This is wonderful. You’ve even rolled your sleeves exactly the way I love them.”

The staff was always teasing us about my preference for the sexy way Mike had of rolling up his sleeves. He had a special way of doing them that was a real turn-on, to me anyway. Tom had tried to duplicate Mike’s method numerous times and had even tried to get Mike to demonstrate his skill. Mike liked to tell Tom that it was the only thing he could do better than him and he wasn’t about to give away his one winner.

“This is so good and so much better than going out.”

“I agree.”

We’d laughed often calling the refrigerator in our personal supply closet our best secret weapon, and tonight it was proving itself just that. He’d prepared a wonderful assortment of the goodies that Cecelia kept stocked for us.

In the hour that followed, the conversation flowed easily. Mike exuded confidence and charisma. From time to time he allowed a smile into his voice as he shared his concern about how hard I was pushing myself. Those sharp, clear eyes of his told me he knew he was right on target. He’d seen me move into meltdown mode less than two hours ago.

“Thanks for dinner but I absolutely must get to the hospital. I can’t go home until I see Tom.”

“Why don’t you let me drive you to the hospital? I worry about you when you’re so tired.”

“Thanks, I appreciate the offer. But, I can make it on my own tonight. Thanks for the wonderful dinner and I’ll see you tomorrow.” I remembered a song we’d tagged as ours and laughed, “By the way, I’ve Had The Time Of My Life. I always do.”

ADDED NOTE: I have no idea how I would have had a successful career if I hadn’t surrounded myself with highly-motivated people who have become friends for life. During the many years we worked together as a team, I often thought they knew me better than I knew myself.

Names have been changed but my heart sings when I remember my friend, ‘Mike.’

How about you, have friends held you up when otherwise you might have fallen apart?

I’ve had many panic attacks like the one I describe in this blog. In my situation, they are triggered by my PTSD.

Thank you for reading with me.

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About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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68 Responses to THERE’S NO PLACE IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR MENTAL ILLNESS

  1. lbeth1950 says:

    Wonderful you had someone at your back. You must have helped lots of people to have that kind of loyalty.

  2. Yesterday Sheri, I had one of those days, everything went wrong and I lost it, I’m also getting over the Flue which did not help but fortunately Ron was around to help me calm down, we need Men’s stability that is for sure.

    Something else that was reinforced for me is that God does not sit back and wait for us to make a mistake so He can enforce His will on us by making us suffer ( see below) He carries us when we have no more strength to climb. Mike as you felt was there for you because he was needed and so was Ron for me.

    Isaiah 43:1-3 – Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.”

    Jeremiah 29 :11-12 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

    Lamentations 3: 33 For God doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

    Christian Love and Blessings Sheri, one day at a time is a good way to go.

    • I meant to Thank you for visiting me Sheri, we need each other too as woman and yes we are Jesus hands, arms, feet and voice, to reach out to a hurting world with His Hope.

      Christian Love Always from both of us – Anne.

    • Anne – I called you by the wrong name, please excuse. Shame on me. You are so good at remembering everyone’s name. I’m not sure how you are always so accurate.
      I hope you are feeling better and am glad you have Ron there to help you and comfort you. You are so right, we need our mates when we don’t feel well or have the need for companionship. I truly believe God put man and woman together for among other things, he knew how much we would compliment each other.
      I so appreciate your including words of scripture. I’ll print it out and use it as my touchstone this week and other times as well. I have a book I add scripture too that others have passed to me by way of encouragement or hope. It’s amazing how those words comfort me when I need them most.
      ‘Mike’ has been a dear friend for many years now and although we are both retired, it’s a rare Sunday afternoon that we don’t talk at least an hour or two on the phone. His friendship continues to be a real blessing in my life. With prayer, Sheri

  3. Simona says:

    BELLISSIMA SETTIMANA hugs!

  4. bjsscribbles says:

    I have not been on your blog for a while, I have been mainly writing to try and forget my pain and struggles. I read your post thing morning and still am amazed at your work. Mental illness falls through the cracks here in Australia as well.. Regularly we see stories on the news nightly of the troubles of many struggling for recognition and help from the government.

    • Hello BJ – I’ve been watching your many blogs over the past few weeks and your pain and struggles have been evident. Often it’s hard for us to surface when we can’t see the light. I understand that concept completely. I haven’t found a government yet that treat’s their mentally ill with the respect and treatment programs needed. We end up with more mentally ill patients than prisoners in our own incarceration system. I’m also see this with the treatment of the elderly and other citizens unable to care for themselves. I encourage you to keep up with your art work. I believe that’s a valuable outlet for you and a great way to work through some of your problems when all other avenues seem to fail you. I’m wishing you the absolute best life has to offer.

  5. Lignum Draco says:

    We all have methods to cope, to varying degrees of stress. “Mike” sounds like the ultimate coping method. I’m glad he was there for you.

  6. inesephoto says:

    Overwork. Sheri. please take care of yourself. Sometimes we just have to slow our pace if we want to travel further.
    God bless.

  7. As I read this post, I realized what an amazing person you are. I pray for you and for your husband. Everyone needs a friend like “Mike,” so glad you have him,

  8. Stress, over-work, panic attacks: I don’t wonder your body failed and you faltered. I don’t know how you have managed all these years to put one foot in front of the other and keep on keeping on. You have been a marvel, but how do you know how much more your body can take? Do take care, Sheri. Do take care of you too. ❤ ❤ ❤

    • My dear sweet Tess – Remember, I grew up in the shadow of my very own John Wayne (otherwise known as Dad). I loved my Dad and wanted to be everything he was and more (minus the John Wayne part of course). I never once considered myself over-worked for I created my career myself and loved what I did. I was working beyond 80 hours a week before I met Tom and thought nothing of it. I remember telling my best friend, after I’d been to Tom’s house the first time, that he’d make me a perfect wife. He had custody of his 2 daughters aged 4 and 8 and was a senior officer in the active duty military. His house was spotless, he had a triple braided bread rising on the stove top and a home-made coconut cake cooling on a rack. On top of all that – his house was spotless and he was ironing a tiny little skirt for the 4 yr old that had 1/2 inch pleats all the way around and he was laying the pleats all the way to the hem!
      There I was, the career woman with a housekeeper, and I was flying from one place to the next and never knowing where I’d be next week.
      Please, there’s nothing special about me. I’m a woman that fell in love with an extraordinary man and I was happier than I’d ever had any reason to expect. I simply knew I would modify my career to meet my new lifestyle. I didn’t want to be away from Tom but I still worked my 80 hours, simply in a different fashion.
      Yes, Tom is very sick today and I’m truly afraid. I worry about him and wonder if the doctors have done all they can and don’t want to tell me. Have we reached that point, I wonder?
      I watched my Dad slip ice slivers between my mother’s dry and parched lips while she was in CCU for 46 hours without a break. He would not let any of us kids take over for him. He was the one that was able to get enough liquids in her to start her kidneys again or did he get enough love into her and they had 4 more wonderful years together.
      I pray, God please give me the strength to keep Tom from suffering for he has suffered more than enough. He didn’t ask for this dreadful disease that’s eaten the remainder of his body.
      And, yes Tess, I am taking care of myself. I realized I’d spent far too much time in the garden and too much heat and am restricting myself to only filling the bird baths today.
      I do hope all is going well in your world.

  9. willowdot21 says:

    Dear Sheri this post left me even more in awe of you . You worked so hard and even then you made sure you visited Tom.
    You pushed yourself so hard always finding time for everyone except yourself. I see that you are the special type of person who opens up to friends.
    I have often lent on friends and often reciprocated! I think friends are important and they often make the difference. Hugs to you. Xxxxx

    • And hugs right back at you my special friend. I know you understand exactly what it takes to be a good friend with your use of the word reciprocate, for that’s exactly what it takes to be in a good friend. We must be there for each other, no matter what. Friends have made such a difference in my life. I don’t have a lot of close friends and never have. However, those friends I hold close in my heart I’d do anything in the world for and know they’d protect me at every turn in my life.
      Because my career has moved me so many times, it’s amazing to me that I’ve managed to hold dear some friends and that’s where the real work comes in. Tom and I will have lived in this home 9 years and that’s an amazing record for us. Friends laugh and tell us they are finally writing our address in ink instead of pencil!
      I loved my career and was already working 80+ hours a week when I met Tom. The work I did I so believed in and so did my team. That’s what made everything so worthwhile for us. When I met and married Tom, it was as if my world had become perfect and anything was possible – and it was – mental illness has taken me on many side roads I wouldn’t otherwise have taken but we will come out stronger for the experience.
      Thank you, as always, for reading with me and commenting.

  10. Sheri, that was one incredible journal entry. It read like a short story. Very creative writing. Great dialogue and description of place.

    • Kitt – Thank you. I so appreciate your support. I decided I’d tap some of my journals from the early days for a few blogs. My purpose for blogging all along has been to let others married to an individual with a mental illness know that a loving and caring relationship is possible. I’ve always maintained Tom and I will never become part of the 90% divorce rate statistic and it angers me to no end when others tell me, “it was just too hard and I had to walk away.” My thought, if we walked away from everything in life that was hard, we’d pretty much have to stay in bed all day!

  11. There is hardly any place anywhere for mental illness. This is a good story, and you are a good storyteller. Thank you for sharing it. I can imagine it might be a challenge to revisit this.

    • Hello Julia – So nice to have you visit and leave a comment. You are so right, there’s no place for mental illness unless you’re a provider of care and are making a lot of money or a pharmaceutical company.
      I’ll be tapping my journals more in the near future. I hope to convey to others that it’s possible to have a challenging career [one I loved] and still be present for your mate and their needs.
      Additionally, the federal government has not changed their stance on mental illness since the day I wrote this journal entry. Every soldier with PTSD knows this, every career civil service employee knows to keep silent and move within the shadows and on and on. Those in power say it’s not so, but those of us that have lived in the environment know better. I used to think perhaps change would come but it’s not going to happen.

  12. Sheri – I know you’re dealing with a very serious subject that has affected your life for many years now, and I pray that you find help for yourself and your husband. That said, I have to tell you I had a funny reaction to your title. Actually, there are several places in the federal government for mental illness: The White House, Congress, and the federal court system.

    • Hello David – The White House, Congress and the federal court system cannot blame their behavior on having a mental illness. When they meet their maker, how will they explain their behavior – they’ll perhaps be wishing they could explain it so easily as being caused by a mental disorder.
      I think of the example of Bryan Williams. Here was a man with fame, respect from his peers, a salary higher than the two of us could possibly imagine and on and on. Yet, it wasn’t enough and in Bryan’s mind he had to be seen as brighter, funnier, more adventurous, and just plain more before the story broke of his false reporting. Here’s an example of a man with everything and he elected to destroy himself and his career.
      I think of how hard he worked to obtain the anchor of the nightly news on NBC and how little it took to tear all of his accomplishments away. No one did that to him. He did it all to himself. I can’t help but feel sorry for him and his family.
      Our politicians are just plain greedy and could care what they do to anyone else as they are doing everything for themselves. They, as a rule don’t care about anyone else.
      Bryan thought he wasn’t doing enough. Why? He had more viewers than any other network.
      I’m not saying Bryan Williams is mentally ill, I am saying he’s a man opposite that of our politicians. Perhaps he thought somewhere deep in his soul he didn’t deserve to be where he was and therefore he tore himself down. I’m not a psychiatrist and don’t pretend to be one. But, I do think the politicians will see hell before Bryan Williams.

  13. Panic attacks. Yep – you are not alone by any means. Thank you for sharing “Mike”. What a wonderful friend. My sister-in-law would be my choice and has been when hubby was going through all his heart issues. She was there for us day and night. Just one person like that can make all the difference for sure. Take care madam – we’ll talk soon. Hugs to you both.

    • Mary – Hello my special friend. How are the birthday plans going? Yes, “Mike” is that special friend that took less than the amount of time it took me to interview him to go from potential employee to employee and then to deep, deep friendship. He’s still in my life today and I so look forward to his Sunday phone calls. Like you, no topic is off limits. We often laugh and say, “Remember when.”
      If it were up to the two of us, we would have solved all the world problems by now, I’m positive.
      Those panic attacks aren’t fun are they? After all my years of therapy, I know the origin of mine and I finally have a doctor that has the correct prescription for me. It’s rare and I do mean rare that I encounter an attack but for well over 20 years I had no idea when one was going to hit. They were indeed enemy #1.
      You are so right, having that one person at your side makes all the difference in the world. I couldn’t have gotten through a single chapter of my life without a good friend. Thank you for being one of them.

  14. Sheri, as always you write eloquently and movingly about the trials you’ve had to face. I’m glad you have had people like Mike in your life to give you some support when you need it.

    • Andrea – Thank you for stopping in to read with me and commenting. I never think of my life as trials I’ve gone through for that would make me a victim of sorts. I prefer to think of them as challenges to becoming a stronger and wiser person. I’ve been blessed to have ‘Mike’s’ in my life from coast to coast.
      I loved my career and it came with it’s own built in problematic dangers and stress. I knew that when I basically wrote my own job description. I couldn’t stand the thought of greedy people taking advantage of those who couldn’t help themselves or stealing from the government.
      Tom was and continues to be the love of my life. Our wedding vows included the word commitment and even if it didn’t, I’d still be at his side. He’s made my life richer than I’d ever thought possible. I’m a lucky woman, Andrea. Many would not have chosen to walk the path I have, but I honor and respect other women and their accomplishments.
      Ask me to prepare 3 meals a day and put them on the table and well, I’m totally out of my league. However, I’m in awe of the woman that can do that day after day.
      Your prose and photography are beyond me and I admire your work each time I visit your blog. Your literal writing and pure beauty are a joy to behold. Your talent is beyond anything I could ever hope to achieve. One of the things I so love about the blogging community is that we are all so different in our own ways and still come together in friendship around the world.

      • That’s a great way to look at it Sheri – there are many experiences I’ve had that I’d prefer not to have gone through, but when I look back, they do make my life richer in experience and make me stronger. I can imagine that though you face challenges, it is in many ways very rewarding and to have found the love of your life is a blessing. And thank you for those lovely compliments 🙂

  15. That, despite the stress, is the dream job–all hands working to support each other. I love this story, Sheri.

    • Jacqui – Thank you. I’m glad you like the story as there’s more to come. I decided to tap some of my journals to bring forward some of what it’s like for the spouse of someone with a chronic illness to maneuver both their career and never let the needs of their spouse fall aside. I’ve been fortunate in building a team that became dear friends over the years. It was hard at times when we knew the other person was in harms way but, at the same time, we all knew we had each other’s backs. Nothing was ever left to chance.
      One of the topics I cover over and over in mentoring is that it takes a lot of work to be a good friend. That it doesn’t just happen and in some ways can be more work than a good marriage. And, above all, the same as a good marriage, you can never take a friendship for granted.
      I loved my career and when I retired I was pretty lost for awhile until I found my niche again. I don’t ‘hang out’ easily.

      • No truer words. I’ve found the people who will stand by me (with my RA and migraines–not nearly as difficult as Tom’s issues) ends up one: my husband. I thank God every day for sending him to me.

  16. GP Cox says:

    You are always there for everyone but yourself, Sheri – why do you think I am always harping on you?!
    All my best to Tom.

    • GP – I decided to start posting some of my journal entries to hopefully help other spouses married to those with a chronic illness that you really can come through the other side.
      When I met Tom, I was already working 80 hours a week. I loved my career and I made it clear to him I wasn’t giving it up for anyone or anything. Being the confident man, he looked at me with that always present twinkle in his eyes and said, “I don’t remember asking you to give up anything.” Man, talk about stopping me in my tracks. All Tom ever wanted was to compliment me and my work and I tried to be there for him when he was featured at a gallery showing, etc. I’d give most anything to have those years back but I know that’s not going to happen.
      I have friends, loyal friends who would do anything for me [and they have over and over]. I would be lost more often than not without the love and care of my friends. Many friends are from 35 or so years ago and others are more recent – since we moved here 9 years ago. And, I am taking care of me. I decided I spent too much time in the garden [something and somewhere I love to be] because I felt terrible last night and promised myself I’m not going out today with the exception of filling the bird baths.
      The volunteer program at the VA is going great guns and yes, I would love to see it go national but maybe that’s not my job. However, we’re lucky in having so many young volunteers with lots of energy and I see some of them willing and ready to move forward and they have the skills to do what needs to be done.

      • GP Cox says:

        It’s fantastic to hear you sounding positive. Despite only filling the bird baths, the plants will be out back waiting for you when you’re feeling better. It makes me feel much better knowing that you have close friends nearby – you and Tom deserve to know such people and have them by your side.
        You know my feelings on the volunteer program, but I can not expect [no one should expect] you to be the one to work on it going national.
        Please continue to take care of yourself and of course – my very best to Tom!!

        • GP – Your blog continues to be one of Tom’s favorites. I overheard him talking with an old friend from high school how your blog should be incorporated into the curriculum being taught instead of what’s coming out of the history books. This friend and Tom found each other on Facebook and I didn’t know they had been chatting so much. Anyway, what I’ve been told is that his friend is a retired American history teacher and he now agrees with Tom.
          I suggested to Tom that before his friend gets to carried away he should contact you because your work is copyrighted, as it well should be. [ I’d planned to e-mail you about all that].
          And yes, I’ve taught grant writing as well as written legislation plus all the steps in between. I don’t have to carry the torch and there’s a new generation that wants to do it and that’s the best news of all.
          Our close friends are terrific from the word go. Last week we had 3 appointments in Little Rock and my friend drove us all 3 days as I didn’t feel well.

          • GP Cox says:

            It is always great to be validated by people such as you, Tom and now his teacher buddy. I’ve been very fortunate to have a number of military and educational people follow the site. Frankly, I don’t know much about grant writing or be copyrighted – I tend to glaze-over when I have to read insurance papers too. Why don’t you make the decision for me, oops ^^’ see how easy it is for people to put more work on you!!?!
            I am so relieved to know you have such friends around to help – I care for you both and wish I wasn’t so far away!!
            Talk soon, Sheri!

  17. I liked this post because of the relationship and friendship. And because you are a constant voice of reason and understanding for all of us.

    • Colleen – Thank you. There’s nothing we can’t get through without our faith and loyal friends. As you well know, times can be difficult in the world of mental health, but they are not impossible. I simply wish more individuals understood the word commitment when they entered into a relationship. It would make a world of difference in how they approached their life and the outcome.
      Thank you for being a constant voice as well. You are indeed a blessing to those you advocate for and serve.
      I’ve never been one to need or have a lot of friends, but I value loyal and deep friendships. Those friends I can call in the middle of the night and they can do the same — those are the friendships I cultivate. We will be there for each other when others won’t.
      Reading of your bicycle trips or heading out for an ice cream has made me stop and think about taking a little more time for myself. Thank you for the extra hour of gardening or reading or sitting quietly. Those little breaks help.

      • Sheri I appreciate your voice. Whether your talking and sharing about Tom, the issues involving medical care (or lack of), or your feedback .

        I’m fortunate to work where there are voices louder than mine, actions better than mine, and constant review of our actions. I believe people are being heard, unfortunately change is slow. Too slow. Change a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now-leaves a lot of people suffering

        And I’m glad you are taking some time for you. That’s good for Tom, as well.

  18. Dear Sheri, you are one of the rarest of the rarest in your dedication to your husband and trying to keep him safe and well;. Most folks can’t hold up to what you have done for 20-25 years or more. I enjoy reading your wonderful accounts of your career and all of the trials and tribulations of your married life and your career. I hope all is as good as can be and I’ve been thinking of you and Tom. Please take care of you too.

    ~yvonne

    • Yvonne – Hello my friend and how are you. I’ve also been thinking of you and especially wanting to let you know last week Tom’s precious shih tzu, Scooter, passed away. It’s been hard on both of us but especially Tom. The two of them had a special bond. Now, my shih tzu who was always with me has discovered she’s needed elsewhere and has become the glue at Tom’s side. It’s amazing to me how dogs immediately understand where they are needed the most for love and companionship. She never fails to bark if Tom tries to get up or if she even thinks he needs something. Now she’s the official doctor dog!
      I’ve been in the garden a lot but it’s gotten so hot, I’m taking today off. We’re at 96 today and it’s to be the same tomorrow. I overdid it yesterday and felt awful last night therefore, my decision to take it easy today. [That’s me taking care of me].
      I’ll be out long enough to fill the bird baths and that’s about it.
      We were worried about how Prissy [my dog] would be without Scooter [she’s never been without other dogs around as she was a puppy mill mama when we rescued her and we already had Scooter] but after the first couple of days, she seems to be okay. She’s 18 but the vet tells me she’s in excellent health and it must be all of the love!
      With warmest love and prayers. Sheri

  19. Loved this story! We all need friends like Mike. I was stationed at Fort Ord in 1992 and I had some of the best friends that I have ever had. I am still in touch with a few of them. It’s too bad the base had to close down. Those were the days!

    • Michelle – Indeed, those were the best of days. I worked out of the Office of The Staff Judge Advocate for 13 years and we became family. My heart broke the day I made the decision to leave Monterey for DC but it was the only decision open to my career. DC had been after me for years and the writing was on the wall.
      I believe Fort Ord would still be open if it weren’t for the vanity of one man – Leon Panetta. You may remember, he was the congressman from California who literally traded the closure of Fort Ord for his position as Secretary of Treasurer while Pres. Clinton was in the White House. Panetta balanced the budget on the back of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
      Further, Panetta decided he didn’t like DC after all and returned to Monterey to further gut Fort Ord while thousands of others were out of jobs. He was the perfect candidate for Secretarty of ‘War’ – he already had lots of experience with pillage and plunder.
      I sincerely appreciate your stopping in to read and comment. I always do. I felt I had finally come home when I landed in Monterey and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to give up. When others have asked me what’s the biggest tragedy been in my life – it’s the fact that I couldn’t keep Tom and I in Monterey.

      • I was one of the last soldiers to leave and I think one of the last, or maybe even the last person to deliver a baby at the hospital there. I miss Monterey too and I will always have fond memories of my time there. I always tell my kids, the most tragic parts of my life happened there, but also some of the most amazing parts of my life happened there as well. I wouldn’t change a thing because of the final outcome. I agree with you though… I wish that the post hadn’t closed down. I had no idea about all of the political issues that were going on. I was 19 years old and just knew that I was being sent to another post, away from my friends and my family who lived nearby. I miss those days…

  20. Thank you for sharing that story.

  21. Wow, what a story. It pulled me in like no other. I could see it happening right before my eyes. And Mike sounds like a gift, doesn’t he? To have someone care so much for you even though he’s an employee, and to become your friend – awesome. It seems making it through hard times takes an army. That going solo just doesn’t cut it. Thank goodness you surrounded yourself with good people. It says a lot about you as well as them.
    And this story just pulls at my heart strings because it’s non-fiction.

    • Hi Patti – I thought I might do a few more personal blogs to give an idea of how it was to work every day while continuing to care for Tom and even more, keep Tom’s mental health condition a secret from the powers that be. In my line of work, there was zero tolerance for mental illness and I was more afraid of losing my job than anything else in the world. It was my insurance [through my work] that paid for Tom’s health care and if I lost my job, I couldn’t figure out how I would ever be able to get such good insurance anywhere else. I also must convey that I’m so far from the woman that can do it all, that can keep it together and knows what to do. I run scared much of the time, the same as many others trying to figure out what’s next within the world of mental health.
      As always, thank you for stopping in to read with me and for always commenting. I hope all is well in California.

  22. ksbeth says:

    you are an amazing person, who never gives up, even when your body and mind want to. friends can be a lifeline in hard times, and pull us back into a calm sea when we get caught up and almost pulled under by the waves.

    • Beth – I’m an ordinary citizen doing what I know how to do. You are an amazing educator and have a profound positive influence on children daily. I don’t have that skill and never have. Children are our only hope for the future. The moral fiber you set for them will be the compass that guides them through life and will hopefully save us from ourselves. What I do is simply try to clean up the mess that’s already been made. I haven’t a chance of making the amount of positive change that comes with teaching young minds and hearts the good that one person can do.
      I deal with people who have no desire to change and are in the game for themselves and no one else. They don’t know how to share and would consider it stealing if they had to give part of what they had to someone else. So you see, you are the amazing one. I simply try to clean up the rubbish that’s left over because you are 1 in a million. Unfortunately, not all educators care the way you do.

  23. Sheri … surely there is a special place in heaven for what you do… have done… and will continue until you can no longer breathe. You shine a bright light on inequities and you give a human face to a system that wants to treat people like faceless numbers. You tell the truth and force others to face it and implore us to do something about it.

    Can each of us make a difference? Yes, we can and you prove that daily 🙂

    • Florence: Nope, no special place in heaven. I can be a bully, you know. Sometimes I get so tired of ‘the establishment’ pushing citizens around that I’m willing to push ‘the establishment’ around. The same goes for white collar crime. As far as I’m concerned, some of the greatest misdeeds of mankind have been done by individuals sitting on the highest thrones. Unless these individuals are caught, they keep on doing whatever it is they are doing for the remainder of their lives. Crime is crime and when people believe they can get away with something and get rich without working, that’s human nature all too often.
      I really thought I’d be finished dealing with white collar crime once I retired from government but it seems it’s still right here with all the research I do. Of course once I know it’s going on, I have to do something about it. I might not have any influence but at least I can bring it to someone’s attention and keep at it until someone with legal authority has to be held accountable.

  24. Elyse says:

    Oh yeah. Where would we be without friends … Glad you had one at the right place in the right time.

  25. cindy knoke says:

    Ahhhh, Sheri you are pulling the stigma away brick by brick. We are all human and we all have our unique problems. I told you in 27 years of providing psychotherapy and eight years of retirement, I have yet to meet a mentally healthy person. I always challenged my clients to bring me their mentally healthy friend or family member and they always laughed in recognition. Of course they never brought such a person to me. They don’t exist. If anyone reading this thinks they are the one, this is a delusion. 😉 It’s a question of what one does with their unique problems. What you are doing Sheri, is helping to tear down the ignorant stigma about mental illness and I so admire you for it my friend. Your posts will help people.

    • Cindy – Mental illness was the ‘elephant’ in my mind. I couldn’t figure out how I could keep my career going with Tom’s diagnosis. Then when my panic attacks set in, I had no idea how I was going to protect us. “Keeping my face in a jar by the door,” suddenly had a whole new meaning and there wasn’t anything funny about it. How was I going to convince The Armed Forces Committee I had the best medical benefits bill for active duty soldiers and their family members if I was covered in oily perspiration. I’d never been afraid of speaking in public or before large crowds. I had no problem being argumentative. Little did I know this would be the least of my problems as the years rolled by.
      Unfortunately, there’s still no place in the federal government for mental illness.
      I so appreciate your continuing support.

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