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“Those People” Are Just Like You People

Sitting in my kitchen, I am amazed at how the morning’s indirect light can miraculously evade a winter’s worth of water splotches and mud prints from the dog. Amazed even more at how quickly winter went by when some days it felt like an eternity.

Outside I see that the grass my husband had planted from seed in the fall has grown exponentially. I’ll admit that I had mocked him when he had meticulously laid the soil, raking it perfectly flat and then had daintily sprinkled the seeds. I said it would never survive. He chuckled and said:

“I’ve seen fragile things survive harder conditions than our winters. Plus I’ll kill any squirrel who dares dig a nut in this.”

After the final snow pile had melted, he had inspected the ground. It is riddled with holes.

Over the season, we had watched big fat grey squirrels, black squirrels, squirrels with no tails, ones with bald patches – all sorts, shovel and run through his grass. We would just sit at the table and giggle as my husband would get up and bang on the window and shout “Damn you! Get the hell off my lawn!”

But so far, it’s beautiful.

The mornings have been getting warmer and I can comfortably wander outside with my coat and tea without aggravating my Raynaud’s (of which, can I tell you, has been an absolute pain lately. Quite literally).

I’ve been craving alone time more and more lately.

Just the silence, really.

Space to inhale and exhale and maybe sigh so bloody loud that I don’t hear a single soul say:

“OH. MY. GOD. WHAT IS WRONG NOW?”

Today, I let that morning’s indirect light welcome me out. There are tree buds floating in small puddles on the pavement.

The birds are singing and the pitch is loud and happy – forever a sign that Spring is finally rooted and for some odd reason it also reminds me of when I started my psychiatric rotation in nursing school.

*****

I woke up just before the sun but not before the birds. They were the only noise in my house those early mornings as I rushed to find whatever regular clothes I had clean for my clinical rotation.

We weren’t allowed to wear scrubs and had to place stickers over our last names for “our protection”.

Outside they were louder. I’d even hear them over the hum of the car motor when my dad would stop at a red light. I’d put my face out of the windows to feel the cool air and to breathe.

I had regular stress then.

My dad barked at me every day, on the entire drive, about the same damn thing:

“Be careful. You never know what these people could do.”

“These people”

“Those people” had names.

Those people had lives outside of those cold pasty walls.

In their charts painted portraits of moms and dads and teens and retired public servants, and just beautiful people who were born with crappy genes and chemicals or traumatic life experiences — who knows and who cares.

Those people where more than an illness.

They were people.

When I walked on that unit I’ll tell you what I saw:

They looked like me.

They looked like you and him and her.

I sat with “those people” outside every day on their passes. I listened to them talk about anything and everything or I listened to nothing but their puffs on a cigarette and the silence between us – the tension, the pain, and those “f**king loud birds”  as one man had said.

I am certain that the people I love, who know me most, see things differently when almost ten years after my clinical rotation, I became one of “them” —

The ones locked behind those doors.

We – people with a mental illness – aren’t supposed to look a certain way or behave in a certain way.

When you go in to the principal’s office demanding change, make sure you wear a lobster shirt. It throws the bag of pricks off.

It infuriates me that in 2017, I’m even discussing this –

I’m tired.

Why can’t you see that we are so much more than.

We have are individuals with spectacular minds and you choose to only look at the diagnosis.

You’re ignorant.

*****

I hear my son in the house laughing and my husband’s loud thuds – mini sticks.

It cuts through my angry thoughts.

I take a breath in and note that my my lilies are starting to bust through the thick topsoil and there on my rosebush are delicate leaves.

I am reminded of what my husband said, that fragile things can survive harder conditions.

And I know.

And I know.

We will.

20 Comments

  1. Those people. I am one of those people. And yet here I am looking as normal as anyone. Loving my kids, complaining about my mother. Working hard to take care of myself and others around me. Those people.

    • Kimberly Kimberly

      Exactly….complaining about my mother….you crack me up xo

  2. First, do tell your hubby that his grass is beautiful. I will admit to possibly laughing out loud as the neighbor squirrels taunted you guys by dancing on your lawn. They are bastards, aren’t they? Cute bastards, though.

    I friggin love your lobster shirt.

    Also, yes. I get it. I’ll admit–there was a time when mental illness (and those who had it) scared me. I think much much differently about it these days. I recognize that everyone is someone and sometimes life deals you a really shitty hand. Anyway, thank you for this. For shedding light on mental illness and showing the world that there are people behind those masks and many of them float among us.

    XOXO and hope you have a wonderful weekend, my sweet friend.

    • Kimberly Kimberly

      Squirrels are the dumbest creatures ever. You know, they’ve dug peanuts and whatnots in our yard and left hunks of bread all over and they forget where they’ve hidden them. So my blind dog will spend 2 hours in the yard at like 1:30am sniffing out these buried treasures and of course, he can’t see them and I’ll have to try and coax him in…we all look mad here.
      Thank you for being honest friend. i know a lot of people are scared. The media spins mental illness in such a negative way and that doesn’t help things. I’m just thankful that more and more people are talking and more big organizations like Bell (in Canada) are hosting events were people openly talk about it. I hope that when my son is older, going to the doctor about your mental health will be as easy as going for any other ailment. xoxoxox

  3. I will just start by saying your grass looks great. I think growing nice grass is a “guy thing” because Mr.J is the same way.

    I am one the “those people” so I get your beautiful words. Thank you for your candor and for bringing awareness. #endstigma

    • Kimberly Kimberly

      I really do think that the grass growing/tending is a guy thing!
      *And I wave to you in the crowd of awesome people!*

  4. I love this post. I wish we could have more open dialogue like this. I too am one of “those people” and I am no different than the gal next door. I know it sounds cliche but a choir director of mine used to tell us to treat everyone with respect because “they could be Jesus.” So that’s what I try to do. I don’t know the path you walk in life, you don’t mine. So again, LOVE this.

    • Kimberly Kimberly

      *Waves to you in the crowd of good company of people!*
      You are so spot on Beth! We have no idea who anyone is or what anyone is going through. I try to keep it all in mind. xoxo

  5. I think it is about respect and open dialogue. People need to not be afraid of any people.

    At work, I treat everyone the same. I hear often “How do you work with those people?” How do you know you aren’t one step away from being one of “those” people?

    BTW: the grass is pretty. My lawn consists of lilacs, which I guess are weeds. 🙂
    The lobster shirt is great. I pretty much love it.

    • Kimberly Kimberly

      Oh that is so sad that you’re hearing that from people.
      And thank you for treating everyone the same. You’re the best * imagine that I inserted a heart emoji here – because my laptop is a jerk*
      Well the other part of my lawn is this clover type of weed thing. It has purple flowers on it. Lilacs are super pretty though. Don’t they smell? They would be bad though if you had allergies!

    • Kimberly Kimberly

      I do think that people are unsure and I’m so glad that more people are talking about it now more than ever. *Waves to you in the crowd of people – we are in good company 😉 *

  6. Beautiful post. As I was walking the dog earlier today I marveled at the bird song and how it reminded me of many summers spent at my grandma’s house. The birds always woke me up… I miss it sometimes.

    • Kimberly Kimberly

      What a lovely memory Susi. Isn’t it funny how our brains work? These spring birds always remind me of my time spent there on that ward. I remember picking up my nursing partners who all smoked and remember the smell. Every one smoked. My patients did. One climbed a tree. Brains…funny.

  7. Kimberly, I absolutely love this! I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and have also worked in end of life care. I have reguarly had individuals say “those people” to me and there may have been a moment of two when I’ve responded – we are all those people. Thank you for this post! I agree with every comment.! Also, so glad to have found your blog!

    • Kimberly Kimberly

      That must be difficult for you at times Sheryl. I think that I’d probably have to bite my tongue a lot 🙂
      When I worked in the Peds ER the staff called the psychiatric evaluations “Red light specials” because the light on the door was flipped to a red. Made me so angry. I couldn’t fight it because I was the new person and it was an old term that they had in place already. Awful isn’t it?

  8. Squirrels torment me. Your words do the opposite of torment.

    And your lobster shirt is KING.

    • Kimberly Kimberly

      I love my shirt. I needed it when I saw it.
      And squirrels scare me on the street. Weird furry things.

  9. Yes! As a counselor, I see mental illness every day. Thank you for this beautiful reminder.

    LoVE your lobster shirt so much!!

    • Kimberly Kimberly

      It is very frustrating when people think that we are supposed to look like and act like a certain way yet — here we are looking and engaging in life like “normal”. Yes there are times when our illness can be severe enough to impair how we function in daily living (ex depression may make us want to sleep more or mania makes us sleep less, or mania makes us talk super fast etc).It is so hard to explain it sometimes!
      Thanks about the shirt. I had to have it!

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