“Monsters” 07.21.23

Vampires are among the most misunderstood mythical creatures. Maybe they are pale, attractive, with dark bruises under their eyes. Perhaps they are monsters in the dark, resting during the day and hunting in the evenings. They are believed to feast on human blood. Some say they will dissolve like a wicked witch under a bucket of Holy water, or disintegrate when they step into the light of day. Others believe they will twinkle in the sunshine. Popular delusions insist that The Reaper visits them with wooden stakes to the heart, exorcisms, death by nemesis. Rumor reveals that they are allergic to garlic. Presumably, these beings cannot enter your home without your invitation. Though vampires are fictional, their details are ambiguous.

There are also common misconceptions about mental illness. Psychiatric illnesses do not yield tangible evidence. This causes many to disbelieve. It creates a realm for guessing and closed minds. We think nothing can touch us until it slaps us in the face. Some think that mood swings equal bipolar disorder; depression is comprised of brief feelings of despair. Anxiety cripples us all, no matter how far we will go to play the part of “normal.” Vampires may not exist, but the whole truths of mental illness elude us like shadows as we stumble in the dark.

The media paints with thick oil. The layers of truth lie so far beneath the surface, and the canvas is still wet. “Ignorance is bliss” covers the top coat. Many are afraid of the unknown. We want to escape our fears with a brush, wash our hands and walk away empty. The media suffocates the truth and replaces it with rumors and judgement. Without key ingredients, they force feed the stigma.

We are all surrounded by adversity too heavy to carry alone. Sharing this burden lightens our load. Everyone needs a shoulder, whether or not you have a psychiatric disorder, you are a family member, or a friend. Instead of viewing people as cases, we must open our eyes and see neighbors.

When we can see, believe, and certainly know, there is no room for “probably,” or “maybe.” We have bested the unknown. We have outrun the real monsters.


“In Sync” 07.14.23

“It’s Gonna Be Me”

I tend to repeat myself. Sometimes a thought crosses my mind, and I instantly seek writing utensils. Most of these thoughts spill off the pages. They roll off my tongue before I can catch them. The people in my life are quite patient. My tendency to speak incessantly and loudly is a result of a shallow short-term memory, caused by years on antipsychotics. When I reach for a pen to jot a note, many times I read the words I meant to cover for the first time. I forget, so I repeat. This is one of my favorite stories, which I am certain you may have already heard. Documenting my life through my words helps me to remember. The act is therapeutic.

Not every man has a heart big enough to agree upon an N*SYNC “first dance” song. It is the truest example of love.

When I was younger, N*SYNC was my favorite boy band (it still is).

My favorite song is track six, This I Promise You, on their “No Strings Attached” album. This particular quote is still fresh in my memory:

“The one you should call was standing here all along.”

In the fifth grade, I was a little boy crazy. I kept a journal, and there were several crushes bound to the spine. This lyric was super-glued in my mind as I searched for the boy who had been “standing there all along.” Most nights, I cried myself to sleep waiting for him. I attribute some of these feelings to the early onset of my depression, mixed with “normal” adolescent angst.

Many years later, in 2016, I met a man who rocked my world. He didn’t know that. Often, I visited him at work. I brought him coffee and created reasons to see him. I flirted; I laughed. He is a highly intelligent person with a marvelous sense of humor, but in the art of romance, I had to make the first moves or they wouldn’t happen.

After many months of friendship and a budding relationship, I realized that I was “standing there all along.”

So, we danced.


“Equality?” 07.07.23

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

-Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

I do not frequently voice my opinion on politics, but certain issues crawl under my skin. Men are created equal, but women are of no consequence? Are we expected to fill our bellies with children, birthing more men to “run the world?” For centuries, women have ruled in the background, receiving little credit for their efforts. Men are stronger? Perhaps the male seahorse can attest to this, as he carries offspring, but it seems to me that it requires the greatest strength to labor, after months of agony.

In the earliest existence of humanity, men were the hunters and women were gatherers. This is true of many other creatures. Due to this arrangement, women became useful for cooking, cleaning, and bearing infants. Gradually, kitchens appeared and women disappeared inside them.

Life is full of frustration. Women should not be expected to work for “free.” Dirty diapers, muddy feet, sticky fingers. When does a mother receive her pay check?

Years creep slowly for women’s rights. Those freedoms can be yanked away at any moment. We have come a long way, but we are still climbing.

Many women battling severe mental illness, myself included, are not built to carry children. Carrying a child can have drastic and sometimes fatal consequences for those who try, and for those who are forced. Some women are content spending their mornings in quiet reflection, coffee in hand. Babies that never stop screaming affect a woman’s most valuable slumber. When a gallon-sized surprise falls in her lap while she is consuming psychiatric medications, that baby may never stop crying.

We have survived the kitchen. Some have managed to remain childless. Some have escaped the broom. We are not all cooks, moms, housekeepers. Women may not be declared equal on paper, but without us, men are lost.


“People Who ‘Got’ Me” 06.30.23

There is peace beyond the storm. It hides, and waits. Exiting a tornado of emotions, it is easy to feel alone. Time heals the wounds, but never erases them. Take comfort in the reality that you are never truly alone. You are your own best friend, but sometimes, revealing your heart to others can be rewarding. Good things come to those who wait.

Facing the terror that rises in your throat, survey your surroundings. Where are you? Finding yourself can be a daunting task. Discovering that you are not struggling alone will force the peace out of hiding. It is comforting to find a group of people who share your difficulties. In my experience, those are the best friends I have ever known.

Committed to a psychiatric hospital was a living nightmare, but healing together under the same roof brought people who “got” me. They understood. We had the same dreams, the same delusions. We couldn’t sleep. We touched each other’s lives in ways no one else ever could. These relationships were short, in the span of “regular” time, but these people will live on in my soul for the rest of my life.

We didn’t have to keep secrets or pretend to be “normal.” We could be vulnerable together. Though we were in a prison, in that aspect, we were free.

A woman I called “Cinderella” leapt from a moving car. We enjoyed breaking out the crayons and coloring together every day. Our conversations were precious.

I ate lunch with a supervisor every day, because I misbehaved in the cafeteria. We became good friends.

A boy I called “Robin,” deduced that we shared pieces of schizophrenia, before anyone else figured that out.

A man called himself “Prince Jesus.” He was a great friend. I told him that if he would stop telling everyone he believed he was Jesus, they would let him out. It’s never that easy.

When I was released from the hospital, I joined a clubhouse where I was surrounded by people with similar traits. We had free lunch, assigned chores, and drank a lot of sweet tea. Many friendships blossomed there. I met my best friend, E.G. We always shared the “secretary chore,” and prayed together in-between calls, notes and other activities. He became a member of my church!

When the tides pulled me under, these people dragged me out and brought me back to myself. I will be ever grateful to them and cherish the friendships I shared with all. Good things come to those who wait, and though I waited many days alone in a hospital, I spent more days in the company of amazing people I will never forget.


“Cure?” 06.23.23

Pain covers a lot of ground. It comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes pain has an obvious reason. I tripped and broke my hand. I fell out of a tree and blacked out on the way down. I lived.

We are told that we are broken on the inside. These words spill over breaking news. Many suffering souls are blamed for heinous crimes because that is the prettiest conclusion, the obvious answer, the first response. Quickly, painfully, this person is judged; a scapegoat.

The media feeds society the idea that mental illness is a crime in itself, a problem to be solved. Speaking from experience, some people in my life have passed judgement upon me, following the path of lies. They will not understand because they make no effort. Some believe that mental illness is “fixable.”

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of sixteen, my high school boyfriend thought this was something I could overcome. In a way, he was right; I have come a long way. On the other hand, he believed this would pass if I worked hard enough. He was not very supportive, but he was sixteen, so what could I expect of him?

Years later, in college, I met someone who truly believed he had been cured of mental illness, due to his devout relationship with God. I believed he was hiding from the truth. If he didn’t address the issue, it did not exist. In my experience, covering yourself with a blanket so that you cannot see anyone does not mean they cannot see you. There is no cure for mental illness, but there is effective treatment.

When my family lived in Savannah, my dad used to ride his motorcycle with a group of friends. They gathered once a week for breakfast. Sometimes I was Dad’s “biker babe” on the passenger seat. One day, I sat across the table from one of the guys, who had a very hard head. We had a conversation about mental illness. I tried to open his eyes, and realized that when some people spend their whole lives believing one idea, it follows them all the way to their grave. I made no progress.

Sometimes, I wonder if there will ever be a cure for mental illness. If this is possible someday, would I want it? I have spent most of my life dealing with this ghost. I have grown to love him. This is part of who I am.


“Happy Father’s Day, Happy Pawther’s Day!” 06.16.23

On this day, if we are so fortunate, we celebrate the other person who gave us life, and those who stuck around to see what happened next. We celebrate the fathers who adopted us, cared for us, and raised us. “Dads” put in the work, shape us, love us. We squeeze them tight and hold them so close we almost love them to death.

We celebrate the “pawthers” who share the love and support of our four-legged children. Logan is our furry little kid. This is year five for us.


“Emotional Support: Charles Patrick Buice” 06.09.23

I have deduced that every emotional support animal needs an emotional support person.

When I was eighteen, my great grandmother went into assisted living. She had a chihuahua named Charlie. She could not take him with her, so she held interviews. No one was worthy. “Meme” called my mom. She explained the situation. Mom told her that if no one claimed him, he could come and live with us. Tears streaming down her face, she agreed. We flew Charlie home from Louisiana to Georgia.

Chihuahuas are “one man” dogs. They choose one person and love that person with all their heart, hating everyone else. We never knew how old he was, but he was feisty! I desperately wanted to be Charlie’s person. He slept with me; I fed him from my hand; it was obvious to him exactly how much I cared. Inevitably, I was Charlie’s “one woman.”

Charlie and I developed a strong bond. When I left for college, he had to stay home. Reappearing after a good bit of time, he behaved as if I had died and come back to him. He was very protective. Charlie made it clear when he did not approve of a boyfriend. He had a least favorite. Once, he peed in his shoe. Another incident occurred when I went for a walk with this boyfriend. We had barely made it across the street when Charlie ran straight through the invisible fence-despite the shock collar-and caught up to us. Needless to say, that walk was over.

In 2013, I was committed to a hospital in Savannah. My absence worried Charlie. I was gone longer than usual. He started to die. A therapist inside the hospital instructed me to sit down and take a Klonopin. With a foreboding tone, she said, “I need to talk to you about Charlie.” Immediately, despite the drugs, I stood; I screamed. I think my heart may have stopped. She told me that Charlie was very sick, and needed a blood transfusion. He had a 3% chance of survival. Then she said that they were going to do something the hospital had never done before.

One of my best friends in that hospital called himself “Prince Jesus.” He formed a circle in the courtyard and we began to pray for Serenity. We prayed for Charlie. We prayed for me.

The therapist opened the back gate to the courtyard and my mom and sister stepped in, carrying a sickly thin Charlie. I gathered him in my arms, wrapped him in my sweatshirt, and held him in my favorite spot, under pink flowers. I cried; I prayed; and he could see that I was alive. We brought hope to each other. Charlie survived the transfusion and lived for three more years! We spent them together.

Toward the end of Charlie’s life, he developed blindness. He could not see Rush, my friend at the time, but he led me to his gallery every day. Charlie knew I was in good hands before he joined the angels. Rush became my boyfriend, and then my husband.

Though Charlie was not a trained emotional support dog, that is what he was for me. I believe I was his emotional support person. We were a team. I am a bit jealous that he is sitting on “Meme’s” lap, while he waits for me.


“Grateful Daughter” 06.02.23

Some people think their dad is the best. They are foolishly mistaken. My dad is the best dad who ever walked this earth. You know those bumper stickers that boast of honor students, their parents proud beyond belief? I am a grateful daughter and wish the world to know this fact, despite the lack of a similar bumper sticker.

My dad was a father first, and a Father second; he is an Episcopal priest. Juggling a family and seminary in Virginia was no cake walk, I’m sure, but my mom and dad thrived. Dad had a good head on his shoulders, and often, a two-year-old. I used to ride to daycare via that mode of transportation. He picked me up at lunch time and we ate in the seminary cafeteria. I remember that he allowed me to drink orange soda, but to keep it a secret from Mom. She kept me from sugar, and now I thank her.

My father is one of the kindest people in my life, and humble beyond belief.

A few examples include:

When we lived in Savannah, there was a homeless community living under a bridge. Dad discovered these individuals, and regularly brought them necessities. A few times, we all grilled ribs and cooked out together.

One unbearably hot summer day, Dad and I were in the Jeep with a large package of bottled water. Without hesitation, at a stop light, Dad passed the water out to some construction workers in the heat.

My father has an enormous heart. Once, I witnessed a memorable phone conversation. Dad had a single question to ask, so he called a certain company to solve his problem. The associate kept him on the phone for more than a few minutes, without addressing the issue. So many of us would have hung up, but Dad was patient and valued that man’s time as much as his own.

My dad is an excellent listener. He is a great source of comfort for many people, and has a peaceful presence. Our family has a special bond I have not seen elsewhere. My three sisters and I grew up in a house with two parents. We solved problems with words, not violence or passive aggressive behavior. My dad taught me how to love, how to draw, how to ride a bike…how to be myself without holding back. Today, and every day, I thank God for giving me an exceptional father and a lifelong friend.

Happy Birthday, Dad!


“Great News!” 05.26.23

I am happy to announce that I am currently working toward publishing my third book!

This book is a relatively true story about my relationship with voices. Mental illness will, once again, be depicted in fairy tale fashion. I am looking forward to shaking things up a bit!

I recently finished the illustrations. It will be a while before this comes to fruition, but I am very excited and thought you all might want to know! Thank you for being loyal readers and supportive of my journey to help make a difference.

Stay tuned…


“We Don’t Say That Word: Freedom of Speech” 05.19.23

When I was a toddler, my dad was the assistant director at a beloved summer camp. My family has history there. We have frequented this camp for generations; our ancestors spent weeks there during the warmest months of the year. My life began in a cabin in the woods.

The residence for the assistant director-filled with me, my dad, mom, and sister, Jessica-was located near the archery range. Each of the counselors taught a different lesson. They were high school and college kids working for the summer. One day, as I played and rested in the roots of a large tree, I heard the archery instructor yell at the campers in a loud, frustrated manner, “SHUT UP!!” My parents had taught me how to keep peace with words, and some words were forbidden. I vacated the tree roots and marched down the hill, wearing nothing but a diaper. I scolded that counselor in a loud voice, “We don’t say that word!!” He fell silent. Freedom of speech comes at a cost. You never know when a two-year-old is holding you accountable.

Children are hanging on our every word. They are listening intently to conversations rated far above PG. Using derogatory terms, such as: “Crazy,” “Psycho,” “Lunatic,” “Mental,” “Stupid,” and even, “Shut Up!” are feeding the stigma. These words float around us from all directions. The media is partially to blame, but dining with parents and friends who discuss these topics over the counter can separate a child from the truth. The effect is a future wrought with continued ignorance and intolerance, passed down for centuries.

Later in my childhood, my mom was game instructor for the “Kid’s Fellowship” Program at our church. She has always been an advocate for “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” She created a beautiful environment for the youth group and was very active in the church. I will never forget her authentic slogan:

“Build each other up.

Don’t tear each other down.

Don’t bully, boss, or push around.”

-Margaret Buice

My mom’s words are inspiring. If everyone took a page from her book, the world would be a much better place. Mom always understood that her speech was expensive. She has four daughters and manages never to forget who is listening.