Tag Archives: Billie Holiday

Finding me

Do you know Story People?

It’s a beautiful collection of child-like art with simple, witty, heart-wrenching quotes like this one:

I was never good at hide & seek because I’d always make enough noise so my friends would be sure to find me. I don’t have anyone to play those games with any more, but now & then I make enough noise just in case someone is still looking & hasn’t found me yet.

I was given the book years ago by a friend and devoured it during a time I needed something a little less cheese-tastic than “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”  Story People fit the bill.  The quote above has always been one of my favorites.

I remember myself always being loud.  I write it like that “remember myself” purposefully.  (Don’t we all color our memories?)  I watch young girls with their friends with one or more of them inevitably shouting out her words so as to draw attention to herself.  I see friends or even strangers at bars or parties being audacious and looking around the room to see who is watching them.  I used to be just that way. 

It really doesn’t take any great psychological mind to figure out why people do this. 

Everyone craves recognition.  Not just being seen and heard but really being known.  It is among the greatest gifts we can give another person – to know them.  I think people seek that out in myriad ways but mine was usually to act out loud, to create my own spotlight, to shock and awe.

It strikes me that writing is a new extension of that behavior.  Writing is nakedness.  It is opening up one’s mind and soul for others to inspect.  (You have been weighed.  You have been measured.  And you have been found wanting.) 

There is both selflessness and greediness involved in revelation.  I think each circumstance and each relationship require a slightly different balance of each for success.  Inevitably we get it wrong sometimes.  And the hope is usually that we learn to get better at what to show and when.

I married a man who knows me.  He doesn’t just tolerate some parts and secretly wish there were less of those.  He celebrates me for the whole of my being.  He knows bits about me that I’ve never revealed to him.  Insight is a rare and amazing gift possessed by few.  They are the true people-persons.  It is this insight that enables one to be compassionate in ways most of us will never be capable of.

I remember my younger self with compassion – all that showy, bravado.  I’m happy she lived through it and came out the other side.

Compassion, though, is difficult to come by most days.  An Aunt of mine signs her emails with a beautiful quote, “Be kinder than necessary.  Everyone is fighting some kind of battle. ~Billie Holiday”  It makes me pause every time I read it because of its simple wisdom – a reminder that you are not the protagonist in others’ lives.  Everyone you meet is someone’s daughter or son,  mother, father, brother, sister, friend…

I believe wholly that everyone is loved by someone.  There must be some good in them.  No matter what they show you.

Recently, a classmate of mine reached out to introduce himself.  His approach was cautious and unconventional but his delivery was kind.  According to his note, if he had never read my writing, he’d only have known that young, showy girl who was just a little louder than necessary in case someone was looking for her.  He was glad to meet the rest of me, he wrote.

Me too.


Yesterday, I had lunch with my cousin who reminded me of one of my favorite sayings about dysfunction.

She spoke my thoughts exactly saying, “It can’t just be everybody else’s problem, right?”

Well, yes.  Right.

Our discussion was about mental health.  Or, to be more specific, mental illness.  We talked about depression, addiction and bi-polar disorder, each having affected someone we know.  Each a dark, personal fear.

Depresson seems to be the disease du jour if you pay attention to advertising.  Within four types of medications for depression, there are no fewer than twenty-six brand names.  It would seems that depression pays.  I’m still waiting for my check.

Post-partum depression was my most recent dance with the devil.

It pounded me like nothing ever has before and I’m no stranger to the dark side.  I was six months into the pit of despair before I could even ask for help.  There were signs, of course, but between new-mum hormones and my self-imposed isolation, who was to catch them?  It was finally my husband who mandated that I get help.  It took more than a year for me to get better and drugs definitely helped me on my path to recovery.

Have you seen the commercials for Bring Change 2 Mind?  Glenn Close is the spokesperson for the organization advocating against the stigma, misconceptions, and bias surrounding mental illness.  I cry everytime I see it

The site says that 1 in 6 adults are living with a diagnosable mental illness.  Actually “suffering” is the word they use, and the difference is not semantics.  I don’t know their methodology for that statistic but it stuns me. 

How many of these people go undiagnosed for their entire lives?  And what are the ramifications of that?

Therapy seems like a great idea on paper.  In practice, however, it feels like a money pit.  Out-of-pocket expenses and unending treatment plans are daunting at best, prohibitive at worst.

I can remember when I was an adolescent, my parents took me to a few different shrinks to find out what was “wrong” with me.  I would venture that I was suffering from “teenager” but my perspective is skewed.  When I refused medication for my real or imagined malady, my parents expressed their pride in my decision. 

This seems odd to me now that I know depression is  not indicative of weakness – mental, physical, or spiritual.

Perhaps “Mental” illness needs a rebranding effort. 

Would “Chemical Illness” be less difficult to say?  That sounds like radiation sickness to me.  What about “Hormonal Illness”?  That could be confused with menopause.

What about the word “Illness?”  Diabetics don’t make enough insulin but get to use “deficiency” to describe their body’s betrayal.  Why can’t I have just been diagnosed with a “Seratonin Deficiency?”

My aunt, who has spent her career in nursing and hospital administration, pondered aloud why psychological care wasn’t treated like dental care?  Everyone should receive preventative/restorative treatment every six months – whether you need it or not.

Can you imagine the cavities that could be filled?

The definition of insanity, according to Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.  So the dysfunction definition, while funny in a cynical way, alludes to an inability to self-assess, an ignorance of culpability, a blindness to our own responsibility for our happiness, or lack thereof.

Whether the decay is of the mind or of the spirit, Billie Holiday had a beautiful suggestion:  “Be kinder than necessary.  Everyone is fighting some kind of battle.”

May you win yours.