SUICIDE – A CAREGIVER’S DESPERATE ACT

Mental Health/Suicide/Caregiver
By – Sheri de Grom

How could dying be more tempting than living? How could such a desperate act seem like a reasonable solution to one’s problems?

BLOG - SUICIDE PREVENTION MILITARY How was I to know that I would be faced with my own suicidal thoughts? I was totally bewildered one spring, when the first stems of perennials were pushing their way through the earth, to find I was suicidal.

Tom was in the hospital to keep him from hurting himself. Somehow, that day, I lost my will to live. Suddenly suicide seemed an option. My endurance had taken a holiday without me.

Morti curled in my lap, purring. “Morti, whatever will I do?” Did he sense I needed consoling? My comfort zone had disappeared. I’d slept last night but my body screamed, ‘no you didn’t!’ My eyes were so dry, a sand truck could have off-loaded into them. No amount of artificial tears helped.

Gazing out the French doors Tom had installed, I watched the quail scurry around my herb garden. The hen, with her soothing coos, coaxed the chicks away from their protective shelter near the rushing brook. The scent of wild pineapple sage wafted through the air.

My mind wandered to the office, and I realized I’d have to place work on the back burner. This didn’t set well with me but I had to find out what was happening to my life. I had an appointment to talk with the lead prosecuting attorney at the U.S. Attorney General’s Office. He’d called me about our Veteran Affairs case, and he wasn’t known for calling anyone. He was used to investigators begging him to try their cases.

He’d understand, but I didn’t want our forward momentum stalled. Arrest warrants were already being issued. I didn’t cope well with postponing things until the next day—not when it came to my work.

It didn’t make sense that I was thinking about postponing my life, forever.

Who could I talk to? Not God. His Word ordained that suicide is a sin. God already knew what I was contemplating that day as I wandered out into my gardens. I felt the breeze caress my skin and tease my hair. The mammoth cottonwood tree played a rustling song, and the brook near our front door reminded me further that even if I left this extraordinary earth, life would go on. Why was I deliberately considering leaving my life when nature could still make me feel so alive?

I planned my own death and my strategy would ensure insurance payments for Tom’s continuing care. It seemed so faultless, that plan of mine.

I would soon be traveling from Fort Ord, California to the Presidio of San Francisco for a meeting. Two co-workers were also going, and I made excuses to ride in the back seat of the car. Some time before I had scouted for and found a location near the Santa Cruz Mountains that seemed ideal for opening the door and jumping from the car to guarantee my death.

Farley jumped up as a tiny rabbit scampered past. He knew he wasn’t permitted to chase the little fellow but he really wanted to take off at top speed.

Farley’s interruption of my thoughts racing in circles reminded me of how uncomplicated it might be to take my own life. I promptly identified with the workings of an irrational mind and how intolerable pain annihilates logical thought to meaninglessness.

The despairing loneliness, the feeling of total uselessness to the man I loved, and the knowledge that life could no longer be the same magical journey we’d once known, made life seem unbearable and intolerable.

I tried putting these terrifying thoughts behind me, but it became impossible. Invincible pain invaded my thoughts, penetrated my rational existence and endeavored to destroy me. Tom’s pain swallowed mine. It was easy to share his anguish and terror.

My world, engulfed by Tom’s illness, was crushing me. I had to find something I could embrace to save my life and not become another casualty of Tom’s disease.

Tom has attempted suicide multiple times. I’m astonished that this wonderful, loving and sensitive man can possibly cope another hour. My first suicide plan of 1988 seems shallow when I look honestly at the lowest point of Tom’s anguish. I continue to discount myself for having the same suicidal leanings.

What I’ve learned about myself is that I grieve for the loss of the Tom I once knew and that

Shattered Dreams

Shattered Dreams

causes me tremendous pain. Tom was the man I’d waited for all my life and then all too quickly, he was snatched away. Yes, he has bipolar disorder but he now has an even larger problem and that’s the physical damage years of medication have taken on his body. Tom has never indulged in illegal drugs or alcohol. Every pill he’s swallowed has been by a physician’s order and now his body has been destroyed.

All of my dreams vanished with Tom’s illness. I’ve learned not to linger over new dreams as they lead to more disappointments. The disappointments lead to depression and the depression to my own thoughts of suicide. As Tom’s 24/7 caregiver, I have to keep myself safe. Who would take care of Tom if I were gone?

I’ve talked with you previously about how invaluable my therapist, Elizabeth Crone, has been in helping me discover how to cope with so many of my life’s losses. When I became a full-time caregiver for Tom, I realized I had to face my own losses:

  • The loss of a professional career I’d worked hard to develop. I was considered the best in my field. I was able to stay on for 20 years but at that point, I had to retire and become Tom’s full-time mental health advocate and director of his medical care.
  • My financial security is gone. When Tom is manic he spends money uncontrollably. This is his one vice and it has nearly destroyed us on more than one occasion.
  • My social activities are gone. We were involved in many activities as a couple and I was involved in several Boards of Directors, but I never know when Tom needs me because I’m the one on call 24/7.
  • I’ve become more a mother than a wife and I miss having my partner by my side. The man I used to make decisions with, the man I could spend endless hours engaging in quiet conversation — I’ve lost all of that.
  • Caregivers the world over need help and the tip of the iceberg hasn’t been touched. I’ll be bringing this subject up more often as time goes by.
  • Tom didn’t ask for this horrific disease and I as his wife have dedicated my life to learning everything I can about it. More literature is becoming available with each passing day.
  • I’ve learned, but not accepted, I’m on first for all matters that keep our household and our relationship operating at whatever optimum level we are capable of having. I want to get it right but I know, I must take care of myself in the meantime.

Once again, thank you for reading with me. Do you have ideas on what might make a 24/7 caregiver’s life easier on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? I’m looking for all suggestions you have to offer.

I appreciate the thoughts and ideas I hear from each of you. Often the thoughts you have to offer me are lifelines I seek in the middle of lonely long nights when I’m battling insomnia.

Have you ever felt as though you couldn’t face one more tragedy, one more blow to your dreams or one more task you must put before your own dreams and aspirations? I ask of you to remember, you are as important as the individual you are caring for and each of us, the 65 million unpaid family caregivers, must be recognized for the sacrifices we make each and every day.

September is set aside to raise awareness of suicide prevention; it is National Suicide Prevention Month.

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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).
Aside | This entry was posted in Caregiving, Medical Care 2015, Mental Health, Suicide and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

156 Responses to SUICIDE – A CAREGIVER’S DESPERATE ACT

  1. mistermuse says:

    I didn’t realize how little I knew about depression until very recently (which led me to write a post about it Oct. 30th on my blog). Your honest and beautifully written piece adds much to my understanding. Take care.

  2. Sheri, it’s very comforting to see that you received so many responses on this post. You said; What I’ve learned about myself is that I grieve for the loss of the Tom I once knew.
    But there’s also the Sheri you once were. The thing I’ve learned about grief is that although we can’t escape it, it opens other doors, as this one that you’ve opened for yourself and for so many others.

    • Carol – I never know what will resonate with readers. What I do know is that I have to tell the truth. All of my readers are smart enough to know I couldn’t posibbly go through life day after day with a smile on my face and laughter in my heart. Realities are tough. You’ve written from the heart about many of your own realities. Without a doubt the truth and honesty that resonates with many of us marches across your pages.

  3. Wow, I can so relate to your story. Except I am the patient and am coming into the time when I’ll have to become fuller care giver of my mom too. We both have bipolar.
    I didn’t realize the meds would be ravaging my body. I do have a therapist. Could not do without her.
    So glad Kirt Tisdale recommended you. I will be back.
    I was suicidal mon and tue night.

    • Hello. I hope you will have help with your mother. Being a caregiver is difficult enough without extra major health issues of your own on your plate. After all these years, I recognize just how important it is to research every medication Tom’s various doctors prescribe for him. We also have a wonderful pharmacist who keeps an eye on Tom’s medications to ensure noting is interacting incorrectly.
      Thank you for stopping in to read with me and for leaving a comment.

    • I am a good friend of Sheri’s and am also bipolar.

      [Lord, I ask that you lift up purpleslobinrecovery right now, and surround her with your love. Guard her mind and her heart, and send your angels to protect her when she has thoughts of hurting herself. My heart goes out to her in compassionate understanding of the ravages of this illness. I ask that you level out her mood swings, heal her body, and give her the the strength and courage to be a caregiver for her mom. I know that you love her, because your Holy Spirit INSISTED that I stop what I was doing and write this prayer as a reply as soon as I read her thoughts. Send people into her life THIS WEEK to extend your love to her in a most recognizable way. Amen.]

      • Ambasodors are everywhere – reach out and you will find others who will help you with your mother. I hope to put a list of agencies that help caregivers at the top of my blog soon. Depending on your mother’s health and her ability to get around, you might want to think about meals on wheels. That would relieve you the responsibility of cooking all three meals for her plus it would provide another person checking in on her everyday. Meals on wheels provides one hot meal plus a sack meal the individual can enjoy any time of the day. It’s often a health sandwich or wrap plus fruit and a desert of some kind and maybe milk. Different programs vary. Keep your eyes and ears open.

      • Thank you so much for the prayer, John. I just now read it. He has, and does!! God is so good, all the time. Just sometimes, in the dark pit, I forgot to look up and see Him!

  4. Sheri–You KNOW that I care, but as I read your anguished post I wondered if I could say ANYTHING more to help a beleaguered caregiver. Here goes:

    A Salute to The Caregiver

    You are a Champion, even when no anthems are played,
    a Rock. It is not just your Loved One who needs you,
    but it is also The World, for The World needs to know that
    Champions walk among us, Heroes unsung, Heroes unheralded,
    who take to The Battlefield each day with no promise of Victory,
    no Certainty that The Battle will ever end,
    or that they will outlive The Battle.

    With no Relief in sight, you Determine to get through each day
    with your Courage intact–against Legions upon Legions of Nightmares
    overtaking your Path. You Defy the Darkness, one small Act of Duty
    at a time, followed by Another, followed by Another;
    this is your Armament–your Helmet, Sword, and Shield–
    for the Battle must be won INSIDE. No other Troops to Muster,
    you March On, and On, and you fight the Remaining Fight
    against All Odds. You are a Champion.

    –John Arthur Robinson

    • John, my friend, you have walked into my heart and soothed the heaviness that so often resides there on a daily basis. Here I find another beautifully written poem to frame and place next to, ‘For Sheri,’. They will reside together along with a plaque another friend gave me when I was feeling especially low, ‘Jesus Knows Me, This I Love!’ And then on the same shelf [all I have to do is lift my eyes away from my computer and I see this magical shelf] I see a framed Flavia card that reads, ‘Love is a gift tied with heartstrings.’
      I’m fortunate beyond belief to have cherished friends and it is a two-way gift of giving. Thank you John for cherishing and allowing me to cherish you in return. Sheri

      • Because of your response, I’ve just decided to turn this poem I wrote for you into one of my offerings at FineArtAmerica, under the title “Salute to the Beleaguered Caregiver.” Other caregivers might find comfort from words that you inspired me to write. I’ll send you the link when it’s done.

        In the FAA item description, I will put a link back to this blog post saying that the “Salute” was written for you in response to your post.

        [Now to find just the right PHOTO.]

        • John – One of the greatest blessings I have is logging into WP and finding my friends that understand me and accept me for the truths I tell. I had no idea when I started this journey that I would gain so much from putting Tom’s and my raw story out there. I knew I had to take the gamble and share what is real in so many lives.
          Your heartfelt poem and your photography both bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart at the same time. During the hottest days of this past summer, your winter snow scenes reminded me that ‘my friend John got me.’
          I re-read your book, Lyle’s Letters from the University, for the second time last night [cover to cover in one sitting] and the chuckles and laugh-out-loud chapters speak to your talent. When I read your book before, I read it one chapter at a time and it was a wonderful experience reading from Chapter 1 straight through. It’s going to make a great Christmas present for many difficult to buy for individuals on Christmas lists everywhere.
          Thank you for being you, John. You are both a treasure to both Tom and myself. Thank you so much for hanging in there with Tom. I believe we both saw him come alive a bit when you called this past week. That was 1 day out of October that he was out of bed the entire day and I say thank you over and over as when your call came in, he had told me he was in the process of going back to bed. With heartfelt Love [is there any other kind]. Sheri

  5. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    BEEN THERE–ALMOST DID THAT! GLAD I HUNG ON TO LIFE!

  6. Truthfully, I have no advice, or words of wisdom. I’m thinking about you. No one knows what another person is going through. No one has answers for anyone else. We are each unique, one of a kind. The one thing I can say, is that whatever you choose to do…it’s the RIGHT thing.

  7. Lignum Draco says:

    I’m so sorry to read that things reached the stage it did, yet what you write sounds so familiar. My 12 years or so as a carer ended yesterday, and I feel no real relief.

    • I’ve often wondered if it won’t take years to return to a normal life or if there will ever even be a recognition of what a normal life might be. You were entrenched for 12 years and that’s a long time. I wish you a gentle time of healing and of being kind to yourself. I’ve often wondered – what will I do with myself. Will I have purpose, where will all my love go, what about the amount of time spent orchestrating the specialized care and attention Tom now requires. It’s a complicated life and I pray you find your own peace as you wake each moment rather it be in the middle of the night or each morning and face a day. We’ll know we did our best. Your photography has always shown that special sensitive touch I find missing in so many photographers today. I once tagged along with Tom, attending a lecture to hear Ansel Adams speak, and his subject that night happened to be the artists use of his own inner strengths/emotional connection with the environment around him and what he captured in his lens. Tom and I both have seen that connection from your lens.

  8. Sheri, “you are as important as the individual you are caring for”. This piece of wisdom jumped out at me. Hugs. Years ago, when my dad died unexpectedly, my husband lost his job and I was struggling with the baby blues, as I cared for a toddler and baby, I was always amazed how much a phone call helped me cope. Even if I called someone who wasn’t a good listener and I listened to them instead of talking, my spirit was lifted. I pray that you have a list of people to call.
    Blessings of peace ~ Wendy

    • Wendy – Thank you for taking the time to stop and read with me and leave a comment. I pull from my journals to write many of my blogs having to do with Tom [my husband and I] surviving over 20 years of his illness when others told us over and over we couldn’t. It’s always been my call out in my most desperate prayer, “God’s will be done,” and I once again allow God to take charge of our lives that I realize I cannot fix what’s happening to the love of my life. I also know it’s not my fault Tom is ill nor is it some long over-due punishment being handed out to me. It took me 20 years or so to finally accept that message.
      I promised myself when I started this blog, I would be honest with all mates of individuals with bipolar disorder. I wanted them to know that it is indeed possible to maintain a marriage and it’s worth staying for those times when the sun shines and glimpses of good times prevail.
      You are also correct, in those early days [and the info found in this blog was 1987-88]; I had to be careful who I could honestly tell what was going on in my life. I would have lost my top secret security clearance with the Department of Defense if they even knew Tom had a mental diagnosis let alone I was stressed or suicidal. It was a tough balancing act. My deputy and my best friend were the two individuals that held me up in those days. I could call and my words were, “please, just talk to me.” They knew me well enough to know where I was mentally but they would do as I asked and still do today. Every caregiver’s most valued assets are friends and it’s the same two individuals today who I talk to almost every day although we live thousands of miles apart.
      Your blog is awesome and I’ve passed along your link to both of those special friends and others as well. Needless to say, you have new followers and that includes me. Blessings.

      • Sheri, I’m honored you would pass on my blog to your friends. Thank you. Recently I met a couple who are dealing with bipolar illness in one of them. I see the same deep love and commitment between them as I see between you and Tom. That “c” word is big. Commitment gets one through the valleys. And God is committed to come alongside us to comfort and support us. How awesome that you have lifelong friends to share with. My old friends are the best because they can read my mind, and I can be myself around them. Blessings back to you both.

  9. kkessler833 says:

    It is so hard to know what to say. I hope you can continue to care for your husband. My prayers are with you.

    • Bottom line, I believe, for any caregiver is that we know we’ll pull through for the person we love unconditionally. I would be anything less than honest if I said it were an easy path. I can attest to the fact that I know I care for Tom better than any other place he could be and he’s more comfortable in our home. I will be at his side for as long as he needs me. Unconditional love has always been present in our marriage and if I were sick, it would be Tom taking care of me.
      Tom grew up in NC and together, we spent many wonderful hours exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains together. I often share your blogs with him and he appreciates the elements of the world he loves so much.
      Thank you for stopping in to read with me and leaving a comment.

  10. I may forward this to a dear friend who is caregiver for her dear husband with Parkinson’s. Like you, she takes an imaginative approach to finding things they both can do, to caring for herself, from ukulele lessons and ping pong to experiments in finding temporary care givers (no successful matches yet).

    Does telling your story help?

  11. Gallivanta says:

    This was a hard post to read, Sheri, (and of course even harder for you to write) but it is important for caregivers and others to understand the strain and grief of 24/7 caring. But, with proper support and understanding, there can also be joy.

    • Gallivanta – How does your white garden grow? How did I miss responding to your comment. I haven’t posted anything else for awhile but am preparing to do so as life marches on and much is happening in the world of healthcare. I always think of beautiful gardens when I see your name and can’t remember if I’ve told you my white roses on each end of the front of our home now have grown tall enough to be higher than the top of the house. I so love white. Have you planted your white clemantis yet? If so, how is it doing? Do you have suggstions for fragrant honeysuckle. I can tell I’m going to have to come up with some easy growing with low maintance items for this coming year. I’ve been away from the blog a big and can’t really say when I’ll catch up. However, the good news is that we have 3 really good doctors on Tom’s team now and for that I’m eterallly grateful.

      • Gallivanta says:

        That is good news re the doctors. My white clematis is still in a pot. I may wait till next year to plant it in the ground. I have been away from my blog, too, visiting my elderly parents in Australia. My sister cares for them in her home. It is a big job. I was able to help her a little.

  12. Sheri … I must at last tell you. I’ve avoided this one. I saw what being a 24/7 caregiver can do, what a suicide in the family does. And both of these struck my mom much more than me. To lose her life partner and great love to cancer and her son to the impact of a mental illness she never understood or accepted.

    Your posts pull at me and stir the memories of what those two events did to her. The woman who was our mom vanished the day she buried her middle son. She lived twenty years more but her feisty personality was forever changed.

    “How did I know that someday-at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere-the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?” The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

    I knew when I was seven that he would leave us early. I waited, jumped at every phone call. I knew the day would come and when it did, no matter how much I thought I was prepared, it hit me like a punch to my gut. I didn’t know then that our father would leave us first, never expected this strapping, tall man would be reduced to skin and bones.

    I love that you can share these pages with us and in my heart I also know that when the day comes for so many out there … and we know it will … nothing we know in our minds will be of any comfort. We can pull some of these from impending flames … and I am certain that suicide prevention helps many to see and circumvent that horrible day … but in truth … those who mean to leave will eventually succeed.

    I can only hope that both you and Tom find peace and acceptance and that you find more than moral support in your battle to keep him whole.

    • Florence – Everything you’ve said is true over and over again. There’s no real preparation for suicide. It’s a dark shadow that follows those who can no longer stand the pain of living. Sometimes we are fortunate and can pull a loved one or a friend back from that terrible edge of darkness but if someone is determined to take their own life, they will take their own life.

      I understand your mother’s anguish and how she vanished after the loss of your father and then your brother. There’s only so much loss any one individual can take into their heart.

      It’s not Tom’s bipolar disorder that haunts us now but the many serious medical issues that leave his body in shreds and him looking 20 years older than he actually is. Almost everything I’ve read after thousands of hours of research has come true for Tom.

      I’m not sure how I would have handled everything all these years if I hadn’t had a demanding career that I loved, volunteer work that I immersed myself into and always legislative work of one kind or another.

      Thank you for reading with me and leaving a comment. This was a tough blog and trust me, there won’t be another one like it for a good long time. I had a hard time posting this one and there’s much going on in our country that I’m in the mood for talking about. [No politics]!

  13. My heart goes out to both of you! Do know that both of you are in my ongoing prayers! Can’t give you any insight, just know there are people out there who care! I truly appreciate your candor and insight….many people suffer from various levels of depression, but don’t openly talk about it. Also the caregiver role….more and more of us will be faced with it as we age. I watched my dad go through it with my mom and her mom (both long drawn out cancer). Your sharing touches more than you know!! Kirt

    • Kirt – Hello and thank you for reading and leaving a comment. Thanks also for the continuing prayers. This was a tough post and I waited a long time to put it out there but the memories are just as raw. I’ve wanted to respond to comments faster but there was noise going around in my head that really had me thinking about how precious life is and how much I want to live each day. I see Tom struggle to breath – through no fault of his own and it’s all I can do not to clench my fist. It’s a good thing I like to pull weeds and move dirt around in the garden. God and I have great conversations when I’m in the garden. I noticed one of my roses has black spot on it today and I elect to interpret that as God saying, ‘Let’s talk.’

      • Sheri…..if it weren’t for all of the 1 on 1’s with God ….I truly don’t know where I would be today…..I honestly can’t wrap my head around anyone going thru life without the faith that directs you into those 1 on 1’s. He has pulled me through some very dark times and continues to hold my hand as I walk my path of life. I stay strong with thankfulness even when I really want to say….what the……I want to really reiterate the importance of your story and sharing it…..He wants you to…..you really are touching lives in ways you don’t know!!! Keep the faith and keep sharing!!!!!

        • Thank you for the encouragement, Kirt. Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing and other times I go full steam ahead. My best friend and supporter stopped by the other evening with complete meals, a gigantic mum and a pumpkin with dark knots all over it. The pumpkin has become a yearly joke between the two of us. Last year I was really struggling with why God continued giving Tom one terminal illness after another. I started doubting that God could possibly love me. I never doubted His love for Tom but thought I’d done too many things that didn’t meet the approval check list. Long story short, my friend brought me the pumpkin last year to remind me that God loves me, warts and all. I was thrilled when a pumpkin arrived again this year. Of course the perfectly grilled salmon was nice – but the pumpkin is perfection.

  14. inesephoto says:

    Sheri – thank you for sharing this honest story. I too was once standing on the bridge, looking in the water for the final answer to all my questions. Unconditional love is the only force that can pull you out of darkness, yet sometimes the darkness is too dark to see through. God bless caregivers! I pray that you always get all the help you need – both divine and human.

    • Thank you Inese. Your comment is so beautifully stated. It’s a special blessing I’ve found such special friends to reach out to via my blogging journey.
      I’ve planted a new shrub [it’s gotten bigger that I thought] but positively covered with honey bees and butterflies from morning to night. I don’t remember the name but will get it for you. Not only is it beautiful but smells like heaven. I’d stop and get the name now but must get ready to take Tom to a doctor’s appointment.
      When Tom feels up to reading, he’s researching how to start a bee colony in the backyard. I’m not sure where that will go but we’ll see.

      • inesephoto says:

        Sheri, isn’t it a honeysuckle shrub you planted?
        Reading about bees is amusing indeed. If you don’t expect honey, keeping them is amusing too – you don’t have to do anything after they have settled.

        • No, I don’t expect honey. I can’t imagine harvesting honey. We have several local bee keepers in this part of Arkansas but not enough to keep up with demand. The plant I was trying to remember the name of is, Blue Fountain. A small piece of it came up in my wildflower garden last year but I didn’t really notice it due to over-crowding. I bought a qt. size at the nursery this year and it’s definitely good shrub size. It’s a little over 30″ tall at the present time and about 2 ft wide plus covered with the tufts of purple flowers.
          I have Autumn Honeysuckle growing about 4 ft from it but the honeysuckle is slow growing and this is the first year.

  15. Yes I know what it feels like to want to commit suicide Sheri, I shared about it on my Blog but it was not because of despair in the situation I was living in, except of being ashamed at the wrong I had done to cause the bad situation I was in, it was also before I came to heart repentance, Jesus rescued me, if you would like to read about this time in my life, just let me know, thank you for sharing so honestly and of course Jesus was with you too Sheri.

    One thing I have found very helpful Sheri is playing positive Christian Music as I’m falling asleep, the songs I listen to are a mixture of old and new ones that touch my heart, I sleep well now, below is one of my faviourits.
    .

    .
    Christian Love and Blessings – Anne.

    • Thank you, Anne. God has a stronger presence in my life now than ever before. I’m not saying the road hasn’t been rocky and filled with despair but other times I raise my arms in thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing the music and I do love music. I plan to put a playlist together. I especially love the old hymns I grew up with as a child.
      I’ve found in the last several months a group of devotionals that particularly touch my heart and soul and then lead to further Bible reading and study. I get lost sometimes and forget where I’m reaching out. I know I’m reaching and the devotionals will help me get back on track.
      Thank you, as always, Anne for reading with me and leaving such a heart felt comment. With love, Your friend, Sheri

    • Oh, Anne, THANKS for sharing this. I first heard the Josh Groban version. I believe the song was written as a secular love song, but it certainly applies to our spiritual life as Christians. Our daughter sang this at our church several years ago.

  16. Thank God you realized that suicide was not the answer. I can well imagine that a caregiver would burnout from the constant stress and worry with no relief in sight. Bless you, Sheri.

    • Yvonne – The many times when I’ve been my lowest, it’s always the pets that have brought me back. There’s something about having a fuzzy dog looking at you with big black eyes while curled in your lap and I know I can’t leave this earth and leave my love of Tom or the love of our pets behind. Who would care for them if I did. As you know, we only have Miss Priss now and that’s one of the hardest things about thinking about not having her. As long as the vet can keep her going and not in pain she has a place in my lap or head on my pillow as long as she so desires. I just went in to check on her and Tom and the fall breeze is coming in through the open window and as they share the same pillow, they are sleeping soundly. It’s as though she has one little paw on Tom’s cheek. I’d love to have a picture but any click that sounds like a camera spooks her.
      I’ve often wondered if so many photos were taken of her when she was a puppy mill mother, she now wants nothing to do with being photographed now.
      I’m continuing to cook for her organically and allowing her to eat whenever she thinks she might be hungry. Her tale is still wagging but she’s having more trouble with her hind legs so we’ll visit the vet tomorrow for a pain medication management consultation.
      Thank you for caring so much about Prissy. I don’t want her to be in pain but she also provides us so much comfort. It is indeed a tough balancing act.
      How is your health. You are in my prayers and in my heart. Sending love. Sheri

  17. lbeth1950 says:

    I don’t have any suggestions for you, sadly. Just know that you won’t always feel this low. Things will change and days will look better, even though it doesn’t look possible now. It has to be exhausting giving everything year after year. I have also had suicidal thoughts and am now glad I didn’t act on them. Today is good. Maybe tomorrow it will be for you.

  18. I am poor in the way of help or suggestions, but I am rich in love and hugs.I wish I was with you if only to hold your hand or share a hug. I cannot imagine how you have come this far without breaking.and applaud your steadfastness. I wish you good health and strength to continue on this path in life.
    Thank you for sharing. I’m sure others reading this find some comfort in know he or she is not alone. ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Tess – How nice to see you today. I’ve missed you. I thought so many times about not publishing this blog but finally decided I needed to do it or I would be leaving a big part of the story untold. It’s difficult being a princess when you are wading in your own mud.
      Thank you for your kind comments. I’m looking forward to heading over to your house to see what you’ve been up to lately. It’s been a while since I’ve checked. I hope you had a great time traveling and have a travel blog waiting for me. Sheri

  19. I wish I could offer some kind of good advice for when your struggles with Tom and life in general, takes you to places you would rather not be. Unfortunately I don’t have any good answers. Since my daughter is Bipolar, I am learning one day at a time how to help her and I still don’t have many answers myself. Each day comes with new challenges. It’s hard facing the ups and downs over and over again. All I can find to do is pray in the good times as well as the bad and trust that there will be more good days than there are bad ones.

    • Michelle – I’m happy you have such a strong faith for it will hold you up when nothing else will. I’ve learned there are many different types of bipolar disorder and every case needs to be handled differently. I wish I had know, in the beginning, what I know today. I would have directed Tom’s health care in a different direction by about 100 degrees. It’s his body that’s failing us now. Unfortunately this disease doesn’t have a happy side. It destroys over and over again. You are right in that each day brings new challenges and some of them seem impossible to overcome but we manage them in one way or another. Holding you and your daughter in prayer. Sheri

      • Thank you Sheri… and you are right, everyone is indeed different. I feel so bad for Tom and hope that he can find some relief. Still saying prayers for you both too!

        • Michelle – I know as a highly educated woman and also one of deep faith you are an exceptional and compassionate mother for your daughter. You may have read the following book [I’ve read many that have helped me understand the disease more] but the first book I read is still the one I consider the best. It’s written by Kay Redfield Jamison and the title is, The Unquiet Mind. The author is a doctor but she writes from her personal struggles with bipolar disorder and I’ve returned to her writing time and time again. I probably have 40 or more books on my shelf but her writings have definitely helped me the most. I’ve read them all.
          I pray you are able to obtain good medical and psychiatric care for your daughter through the military and support assistance for yourself. With love and prayers, Sheri

          • I have not read this book, but I did go on Amazon to look at the first few pages today and it seems like a book I should definitely read. So thank you for your suggestion! Amy is doing really well right now and living in New York for the next few months. She is even considering becoming a full-time missionary out there with the program that she is currently working with. God is working in her life and it’s amazing to that. Thanks for your encouragement Sheri! It’s so good to have a friend who can understand. Have a blessed day my friend! Love ya! ~M

            • Faith will be the strongest foothold you’ll have in the fight against bipolar disorder and not just for Amy but for your entire family. I’m delighted Amy is doing well and she sounds focused. Wrapped in God’s loving arms, she’s protected from so much more than non-believers. She has a great foundation from being raised in a family with christian roots. She’s truly blessed. Michelle, never hesitate to contact me off-line if I can be of any help. My e-mail is sdegrom@conwaycorp.net. I try to read my e-mail every day but sometimes it takes 2 days. Remember, God wants us to take care of ourselves also. Love you, my friend. Sheri

              • Thank Sheri, you always have the words that I need to hear. And thank you for sharing your email with me. I would love to keep in touch with you offline as well. Friends like you are such a blessing to me. I am thankful to have found you here. Love you too Sheri! Have a wonderful rest of your week! ~M

  20. Patty B says:

    I have no answers or anything new to offer than what was already said. You are definitely not alone. We all love and care for you and Tom. I am sure it may be hard re living the past as you write these things but know that somewhere – someone is reading and finding hope in what you have to endure. I pray I can be that same type of encouragement to you – to remind you how special you are. Sending hugs from PA to add to all the other hugs.

  21. I’m up. Practically identical story here

  22. Angie Mc says:

    Sheri, everything you write is so transparent, real, gritty, passionate…really real. I have no answers. Other than love. Love and be loved deeply is what has saved me. You now I’m a practical and I’m not cliche. I mean this. At my darkest times, it has been reaching out to others and having them reach out to me that has saved me.

    I’m glad you’re here, friend ❤

    • Hi, Angie. How are you, my friend. I thought of you and Dave a lot in the last few days as I’ve been dealing with the VA and reopening Tom’s disability claim. We haven’t touched it since he retired in 1986. I met a senior representative of the DAV who believes we can achieve a boost over the 40% Tom currently has. I’m now buried in 20 years of Tom’s active duty medical records and 30 years of civilian medical EOB’s and medical records. I’m giving this everything I have and more.
      Take care my friend. Thanks for your response.

  23. ksbeth says:

    sheri – this made me sad for your situation and proud of you at the same time. it must have been very challenging to post this, but in doing so, know that you’ve helped others as well as yourself. when we talk about feelings, which can be hard for some to hear, it validates us and what we go through. i’m glad you were able to work through this, and know it is an ongoing struggle to take care of yourself when so much of you goes into helping someone else. your presence in this world has meaning and you have inspired people with your gut wrenching honesty, doing more for the world than i sure you ever imagined. hugs –

    • Thank you, Beth. Yes, the post was difficult but I knew I couldn’t write about the suicide and suicide attempts of everyone else when I didn’t put myself out there. There’s so much we must give up if we’re going to be an effective caregiver and sometimes being there for another seems as though it’s more than we actually bargained.
      Often it can be the little things that accumulate and then the emotions gang up on us. A couple of evenings ago cool weather returned to our part of the world and I was out working in my gardens. The roses, all in full bloom, and the remaining wildflowers swaying to and fro and I wanted nothing more than to sit outside and enjoy my gardens and perhaps a simple supper with Tom as in days gone by. I must accept the fact those days are gone along with so many other simple pleasures.
      You give of yourself over and over creating happy moments for others. I see the results in your blog over and over. Remember to take care of yourself. Sheri

  24. Very pertinent to my own life right now. Last night I helped one of my neighbors contact the crisis time after her husband attempted suicide.

  25. Sheri, powerful post. You write so well, you transport me. Thank you for writing about your experience as a caretaker. Here are a couple of bpHope articles on caretaking:
    Help for Helpers
    Caregivers and Five Strategies for Self-Support

    • Kitt – Thank you. I was invited to speak as the ‘Voice of Veteran Caregiver’s’ at a recent ‘Annual Mental Health Summit.’ It was enlightening and a wonderful experience for me. It’s the first time a caregiver has been asked to speak to mental health professionals from not only the VA but all areas of the state and they wanted to know what “They could do for the Caregiver.” This is an entirely new approach from anything in my 40 years affiliation with Department of Defense. They are concerned they never hear from the caregiver and of course my message is that the caregiver is used to never receiving help from their resources and they stopped asking decades ago.
      I made some great contacts and am excited about possibilities down the road.
      Thanks for the links. I’ll be reading them, as always. Sheri

  26. cindy knoke says:

    You are such a brave woman Sheri. I would not have the courage to share this, but, since you do, you will help everyone who reads this, because everyone will feel despair and depression in their life. It is part of the human condition.
    You are living with so much pain. My heart is with you and Tom, as is my deepest admiration and friendship.

    • Cindy – This blog set in my que from late August until late last night waiting for me to have the courage to hit the publish button. I waffled with myself. Was I being too dramatic, was I putting too much of me out there, or was this one more step I needed to let others know could and probably would happen if they too took on the challenge of loving until death due them part, someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
      I kept thinking, how could I honestly stand in front of other veteran caregivers and ask them to be strong when I’d more than once looked down the rabbit hole and wondered if someone other than me could do a better job of caring for Tom.
      The answer is always no. I’m the one ordained to care for Tom. I’m the one with the touch he knows and can relax into. I’m the voice he knows and not a stranger who might startle him. I’m the one who knows every part of his body and he has no embarrassment when he needs assistance for I’ve seen it all before and have loved every inch and still do.
      Thank you, Cindy, for your kind words.
      Last night in the middle of the night, battling insomnia once again, I so enjoyed your video of the mother bear and cubs in the swimming pool. What fun!

  27. Sheri I don’t think I have any suggestions. Though I work with people who become 24/7 caregivers. And so many of them face exactly what you describe but they can’t identify the concerns, needs, fears, like you do.

    For all 24/7 caregivers I always advise to look in to what ‘can’ be done for their own health and well being. Depending on each situation, the options vary. From nothing/very little to services through the VA, home health, aging agencies if the person is over 60 or 65 depending on that state’s definition of “aged”. Some may be as low as 55. Some people have had help from their church. Neighbors. Friends. Don’t be afraid to ask and to be specific. If someone says “just call” then do!

    • Colleen – Oh yes, that old being afraid to say, ‘yes, I need help.’ I’ve reached that point. I was raised with, “you can do it yourself and then if my parents saw after considerable effort I honestly couldn’t do it myself, then someone would come to my assistance.’ Needless to say that thought process has carried over and is still part of my DNA.
      I have a dear friend who’s learned to drop off my favorite meals from time to time. She knows I’ll always have something for Tom when in fact, my dinner might be a glass of milk and peanut butter crackers. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many acts of kindness she provides for me. Her friendship is the most important of all. Having someone to sit and talk with is a breath of fresh air.
      I was asked to speak as “The Caregiver’s Voice” to a group of mental health providers at a VA Mental Health Summit a couple weeks ago and a gentlemen in charge of helping veterans approached me and said he thought he had some ideas that would be useful for me. I’m to meet with him in the next couple of weeks. I’m so in hopes we’ll be able to work together and come up with something that will truly provide some relief.
      Thanks for caring, Colleen. It means so much to me. Sheri

      • You’re welcome Sheri. I know how to direct people ‘here’. But each state is different. And the VA is notoriously difficult to navigate. I had one social worker tell me “Colleen, we social workers don’t know how to navigate the system, I don’t know how they expect our veterans to do it”. That spoke volumes to me. If Tom is eligible for “aide and attendance” they should be acting on that.

        Good luck Sheri.

        • Colleen – I’ll keep you posted. I heard a lot from the mental health staff and their issues in helping veterans during the Summit. It felt good that I was actually able to shed some light on their problems due to the issues Tom and I’ve had in the civilian health care system with full-pay insurance. The main problem the mental health care individuals seemed to be fighting was they couldn’t get physicians to support the medical side of disability claims when a veteran clearly deserved the disability. I talked some about the issue of diagnostic overshadowing which I had blogged about before I spoke at the Summit.
          We had a great day of give and take and they asked me tons of questions of how I had navigated physicians on ‘the outside’ to get Tom the care he needed. Unfortunately, had Tom been a patient of the VA, he would have been dead years ago from medical neglect.

          • I see the problem many older veterans face, who rely on the VA. It’s a hodge podge Sheri. Some of them seem to get remarkable care, and some don’t. It’s like they have to know a top secret code to get the right care. But no one knows what that code is.

            I am glad you are a voice, and that someone listened.

            • Colleen – I realized I’d never replied to your aide and attendance comment. We went through an evaluation last year and were told we could have someone come for 2 hours twice a week. However, the drawback is the VA sub-contracts that chunk of work out with very little over site. That’s what’s wrong with much of government today and why it costs government so much money to accomplish anything. When I investigated who we would get for assistance I learned: it would probably be someone different each time, the agency did no background check nor were their employees licensed or bonded in any way, and their idea of aide and attendance was someone would come in and sit here while I was away for 2 hours. They could get Tom something to eat or drink or help him to the bathroom.
              When I learned we had no say who would be coming to our home or the fact that the individual could be a work/release felon, I told the VA thanks but no thanks. I wasn’t about to allow just anyone into our home for all the obvious reasons.

              • Wow, as in not a good wow Sheri. Here, I believe they have used licensed home health agencies to provide this service. But some of the same draw backs, one being-it could be a different person every time.

                It’s a horrible shame that the little service that could be gotten, is something people in desperate need will turn down for the same reasons you explain here.

  28. You’re a problem solver, Sherri, so of course, when every solution you come up with fails, you wonder about your worth. Some problems don’t have solutions. They’re about process. the solution is the learning.

    Stay strong, dear efriend.

    • Jacqui – Okay, I was typing along and the new edit buttons popped up and got in my way and in the process of my deleting them, I lost my return comment to you. I’m sure my reply wasn’t brilliant but it does aggravate me when WP gives me something that hinders more than help.
      You are right in that I become frustrated when I can’t solve Tom’s healthcare problems immediately. He’s suffered so much over the years and when I stop and think about it, our journey had only just begun in 1988. I was a beginner way back then and it’s a good thing I had no idea what was ahead of us.
      Thank you for being here and always having words of wisdom.

  29. So glad you didn’t succumb to the thoughts, Sheri. Love and prayers.

    • David – Thanks my friend for stopping in and commenting. This blog stayed in my que for well over a month before I had the courage to push the publish key. I kept telling myself, how could I work with veterans having the same feelings when I couldn’t face my own when I’d had them. Sometimes when I go back and read my journals, I learn more about myself than I really want to know.
      One important element I didn’t mention in the blog is how grounded in my faith I was that night. I know that sounds impossible but God guided me out the door that led me down the steps and into the favorite parts of my garden. It was God that led the Bob White Quail to sing out my favorite sound, a sound I’d grown up with in Kansas and it returned me to my roots. The rustling wind and the babbling brook just a few feet away reminded me that my Grandmother, although she had passed away a few years earlier, had taught me so much about God’s kingdom.
      She’s been totally blind for many years and when I wrote letters to her each week, I always ‘took grandmother on a walk’ and told her about what ‘we’ were seeing and hearing and thus that led to many long telephone conversations. My grandmother Lawrence saw more than many with 20/20 vision.

  30. Oh, man, I’m not sure what to say. I often wish I was religious and could lean on God to help me through rough times. I was raised Catholic but turned agnostic around age 19/20 and have felt the same way ever since. I envy people who have someone (God) they can turn to when times are rough. I’m noticed many times how strong your faith is, Sheri, and it seems that it is your “go to” path when times are bad and low. For me, when my daughter was going through her terrible suicidal times I knew I had to be there for her – which kept me going, no matter how depressing the entire situation was. It seems the same for you. What would happen to Tom if you weren’t there advocating for him? Plus, you’ve noted there are still some “good times” when he’s lucid and feeling okay and you can share a life together, though it appears infrequently. It’s so important that you have a therapist who you love and is helping you. That’s also a great path to making sense of your life with Tom. And of making sense of life – period. You are strong. That’s quite obvious. You will make it through all of this and you’ll do it for Tom and you’ll do it for the positiveness you get out of your life here on Earth.

    • Both you and Sheri love. Love is key.

      • Kitt – Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. As I mentioned on your blog, this was the hardest blog I’d ever written and I wrestled all the way to the end of the month about posting it. However, how could I be honest about this business of being a caregiver without doing so. Little did I know that we’d only entered the journey in 1988.
        It was your blog and the photo at the fence that prompted me into saying to myself, you have to do this. You cannot hold out or you will be a fraud. I’m sure you know how many different emotions you set free that day. What a whirlwind my mind was.
        Mental health is such a stepping stone of growth and awareness. You are 100% correct. Love is the key and unconditional love is what keeps us together and in your case, it’s what keeps your wonderful family together.

    • Patti – This was the hardest blog I’ve ever written yet I was compelled to tell my story of thinking about suicide. Yes, God, is indeed my savor and my strength. Over the course of 25 years or so I’ve learned I cannot do this alone and if I’ll learn to trust God, miracles happen.
      I moved away from religion in my early 20’s and spent a great deal of my time protesting the war in Vietnam. I’d lost my way over about a 10 year period but finally found my way back. It’s been a long time coming to fully understand that only God can take care of Tom.
      I love life and all there is to be gained from living everyday to the fullest. I wish I were there to walk along the shore line with you, enjoy coffee and yes even love your beautiful horse.
      The day is yours, Patti. You are indeed a special woman. Live it to the fullest extent possible. With love, Your friend, Sheri

    • Patti–Like you, I was raised Catholic. I lost my faith at a Catholic college at age 21 and considered myself an agnostic for the next 10 years. Ironically, I found faith again at a secular university when Protestant friends in my grad-school program kept inviting me to church. I have been a member of an evangelical Protestant congregation for 33 years. (It’s where I met my wife of 32 years.) The rest of my large clan is still Catholic.

      My point? It’s not that you need to find faith (you don’t). I just want to suggest that being an agnostic is not necessarily the end of a spiritual journey. Ultimately, I wish you Peace. –John

  31. My prayers and good wishes are with you now and always, Sheri.

  32. Holding you in my heart and honestly hope you can feel it from me, and all the others sending you love. It’s the love that can help when the words are hard to find. Love, Paulette

    • Paulette – Thank you so much my friend. When I look back on those bleak moments in 1988, I was so sure I had nothing left to give Tom and that he would be better with a trust fund than me.
      There’s something unconditional love brings to the equation that transcends time and makes each and every day possible, no matter how hard it might be at the time.
      I’m not saying that night in 1988 represents my only bleak moment, but I can say that I’ve learned how to channel many of those times into holding and loving my shih tzu, working in the garden, researching, reading and the list goes on.
      I almost didn’t post this blog, but how can I say I’m being honest here if I don’t lay it on the line for others to read. My purpose when I started was to be as open and honest in my discussion of how it is to live and love a partner with bipolar disorder. I was so naive that night in 1988 and I still had so much to learn.
      Tom is medically ill now and my sadness is seeing the man I love suffer so much. It hurts my heart more than I can possibly convey. Love to you and thanks for being here. Sheri

  33. Jane Sadek says:

    Oh Sheri, I just want to reach out and hug you. What a load you carry and you carry it all by yourself. There are so many more out there who are faced with the same kinds of heartbreaks. You are wrong about God though. We can talk to Him about anything.

    Religion put the big S on suicide, not God. All sin is the same to Him and He created a bridge across Sin because He loves us. Most of the things people hold against God are really things they hold against religion and other people. God Himself has been misrepresented.

    Who wouldn’t feel hopeless in a situation like yours? We all go through times when we look around and wonder what good our continued existence would be for anyone. Suicide is merely a manifestation of hopelessness.

    I really don’t know how others go on in those situations, because for me, hope is the only thing that keeps me going and my hope is in God. “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able, to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”

    Sometimes I wonder if God is just something we’ve made up to make ourselves feel better about things and then there are days like today. How long has it been since I had time to touch base with my blogger buddies in any significant way? I’ve done good just to keep my own blog going.

    This morning God pulled me out of bed and told me today was the day I had to get back online and touch base with my friends. I admit, I did so reluctantly. I’ve been so far away from all of my good habits that I wondered what good was it going to do to restart this one? A like here and there. A comment on another blog. Then I got to your blog and God said, “See, I told you to get online.”

    You are valuable. Each and everyone is valuable. Even if you can’t believe in God, there is hope only so long as you hang in there. You, Sheri, matter to me. You’v already gotten one virtual hug from Africa. Here’s one from Texas. Hang in there girl!!

    • Jane – You’ve brought tears to my eyes and thanksgiving to God for getting you out of bed and back to blogging. I’ve missed you! I’ve popped into your blog from time to time and kept telling myself, “Jane’s really busy with her new home and travels and wow – your writing success to go along with all that.” You’ve been a busy lady, my friend.
      I know God is all around me. HIS presence calms me when I step into my gardens as I prepare them for next year’s planting. [This year was a dismal failure. I simply didn’t have the time and energy to devote to them]. However, in planning my gardens for next year, HE’s made it very clear for me to remember I cannot keep up with as many high maintenance plants as I used too, I don’t have the time or energy.
      I can’t remember how many times I’ve sat on the curbs of hospital parking lots while crying and praying at the same time, God’s will be done. Feeling desperate and alone.
      Of one thing I know for sure, God will not abandon me.
      It’s so difficult to see Tom so very ill. We are fighting so many different medical issues and he’s in pain most of the time. I miss my Tom. I’ve stopped reading about events we would have once attended and enjoyed together – it hurts too darn much.
      We’ve both always loved live music performances and theater – now I watch the Voice and PBS on TV. I miss those long evening walks and stopping to have a bite to eat somewhere and following a path wherever we wanted to go. I miss the man I married. Oh, how I miss the man I fell in love with. The loss is catastrophic.
      Thanks, Jane, for your encouragement. Sheri

  34. GP Cox says:

    Just don’t feel guilty about the suicide thoughts, most everyone has had them some time or another – but surely move past them. Like the garden that showed you life, hang on to it. Remember the ‘Butterfly Effect’ – each one of us, everything affects affects the world, touches someone or something else – Earth depends on that and you are one of the major players!!
    [received your email this morning, will answer soon, thanks]

  35. Marie Abanga says:

    Sherri on my mind right now is the wish to give you a hug and pray with you. Now from far away Cameroon in Africa, I send you virtual hugs and say a silent prayer for you. I don’t have no ideas I must sorrowfully admit, I can only encourage you to keep doing whatever it is comes up and to the best of your ability. You are awesome.

    • Marie – Thank you for reading with me and commenting. It means a lot to me. I felt I had to be honest and post this blog. Last year during National Suicide Prevention Month I posted all month about everyone else and their battles with suicide but left my own demons to myself. I finally decided that if I was going to fulfill the mission I had for this blog I must write about my own thoughts regarding suicide.
      I’d had this blog written and ready to post well over a month before I had the courage to push the publish button. It kept nagging at the back of my mind. What made me special that I should escape having such thoughts when my world had turned upside down. Thus, push the publish button I did.
      Thankfully, I’ve learned much since that dreadful night in 1988. It doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely, discouraged, feel helpless and hopeless yet I’ve also learned I have options and thankfully I’ve been able to pull through and keep one foot in front of the other.
      I hope you are well. I know from reading your blog that you are always busy. Sheri

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