Daily Archives: July 22, 2013

Rant on the Insidious Appearance of the Penultimate Comma

Yes, I know this is a blog on mental health, not on grammar.  However, a phenomenon has crept into the written English language that threatens my mental health, since it causes me to scream every time I encounter it.  It is the Penultimate Comma, which is a comma that appears between two modifiers preceding a noun.  It looks like this, when used properly:

“A big, black dog.”  (You could also correctly write “A big black dog.”)

When used improperly, it looks like this:

“A white, Cadillac convertible.”

What’s the difference?  It’s very simple.  If you can hypothetically insert the word “and” between the two modifiers, you can substitute a comma for the “and.”

As in: “A big and black dog.”  You wouldn’t necessarily say it that way, because it sounds awkward, but it’s grammatically correct to do so.

However, to say: “A white and Cadillac convertible” sounds bizarre, if not ridiculous.  

I know from whence this grammatical misconception arose: school children of this, and sometimes the previous, generation have been taught that if you can say “A white convertible” and also “a Cadillac convertible,” then you should go ahead and insert a comma between “white” and “Cadillac.”  This is wrong.

Why?  Because, dear readers, it sounds utterly absurd.  That is why.  If you read it out loud, placing the pause of the comma where it is written, you will see.

Another incorrect example:  ”An expensive, Tudor house.”  No, no, no!  Yes, it is an expensive house, and it is also a Tudor house,  but it is “an expensive Tudor house” and that’s that.

Another correct example:  ”An expensive, garish negligee.”   Why?  Because you can say “An expensive and garish negligee.”  Very simple.

How do I come by the audacity to write this vituperous essay on the Penultimate (next-to-last) Comma?  It is simply a product of thirty years, more or less, of editing various  book manuscripts and hundreds of medical and scientific papers, as well as a couple of dissertations.  I learned by Experience.  Period. 


Everything is Okay

They look at you with questioning eyes
Trying to surmise – what happened?
Is she okay? Will she ever be the same?
The answer is no. This is a new game.
It is okay to change, to transform
That is the new norm
I feel like a new person
Looking out at the sun
Ready to have fun
To live a life filled with joy
I will once again dance
I’ve been given another chance
A chance to be me
To be the person I want to be
I want the world to see
It feels good to be free
Free from the prison where I was trapped
No more of that
I raise my arms to the sky
No longer ask why
I know why I’m here
I’m here to help eliminate the fear
The fear of the unknown
The other end of the phone
The messages we try to escape
They are what is great

Sermon July 21, 2013

Since our minister at church is on vacation, I had the honor of conducting the sermon yesterday. My topic was, of course, mental health. I posted this earlier, but unfortunately the link was broken. So, here it is without a link. I hope you enjoy reading it, and please give me some feedback.

I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just a Little Unwell

July 21, 2013

I didn’t grow up in the happiest of homes. There are many reasons why, but one was having a mother who suffered so severely from depression that she would lock herself in her bedroom for weeks at a time. She would only come out occasionally, to get something to eat. Frequently her meals would be as simple as a piece of bread in a bowl of milk. When she was doing well, Mom and I would be the best of friends, yet other times we both would explode into unprovoked fits of rage, which at times involved smashing dishes while screaming at each other. One day I found her sitting on the sofa crying and she begged me not to have a life like hers and to please be happy. I made that promise not realizing that I would be incapable of granting that wish on my own.

Many of you may wonder, “Why didn’t she just cheer up.” Or “Why didn’t she just get over it.” Or “everyone gets the blues, but it passes.” Rev. Peter Morales, our current President of the Unitarian Universalist Association said the following in a sermon about his mother, and I quote “Believe it or not, depressed people spend enormous amounts of energy to cheer up. Events in their lives did not make them depressed. They were not depressed because their lives were hell — their lives were hell because they were depressed.” End quote.

I was such an unhappy child that I would run away from home about every other week. Fortunately we lived on 7 acres of land, which gave me plenty of time to rethink my idea by the time I reached the end of our driveway.

Generally I was depressed, but sometimes my behavior would be best described as erratic, rather than unhappy. When I was a teenager I would occasionally walk around my neighborhood naked at 2 in the morning. And there were many times that I would stay awake for days at a time, sometimes to the point that I would hallucinate. Decades passed before I looked back and thought to myself, “That really wasn’t typical behavior”

The first time I was hospitalized for my mental health was after chatting with an acquaintance. Apparently I said more than most people would share with a person they hardly know. I didn’t know he was a psychiatrist. He determined from our conversation that I was suicidal and had some friends take me immediately to the hospital.

I was diagnosed with depression and was held at Cedars Sinai for 7 days. When my week was over I expected to be released, however, my doctor told me I could not go. He could not let me leave because he was unable to find a county clinic that would take me as a client. Having no insurance, I already experienced being turned away from the clinics. I told him he was going to have a difficult time finding one. I was correct.

After a total of 10 days I was told a clinic was available and I could go home. I lived in Hollywood at the time, yet, the clinic where I was assigned was located at the far end of the San Fernando Valley and was over a three hour bus trip each way. On my first visit I was assigned to an intern. The process of receiving therapy from her was disheartening. She had a booklet that would tell her what questions to ask. When I would respond she would then turn to the appropriate page to ask the next question. When she finished she excused herself and left the room. Apparently all my responses took me to all the right pages because she returned with a prescription for anti-depressants. Although the prescription was signed by a doctor, I never was given the opportunity to speak with one.

I continued to try to get into other clinics, but was consistently told no. In fact, since I was already assigned a clinic, they wouldn’t even put me on a waitlist. Eventually I stopped going on my long bus excursions. I don’t recall it being a conscious decision. This is common amongst those with mood disorders or other forms of mental illness. After taking the proper medications for a while we start feeling better and stop taking our medicine. Why continue to take them when we feel so good? Most of us end up bottoming out again, and end right back into the system trying to get help.

Our country does not have a good track record for treating the mentally ill. North America’s first public mental health hospital opened in 1773 in Williamsburg, VA. Named the Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds. The treatments given were nothing short of torture. One procedure involved submerging patients in ice baths until they lost consciousness. One means of expelling the illness from the patient included inducing vomiting. And, of course, there was bleeding. Bleeding was common, at that time, for treating many types of ailments, but unfortunately, in the mental institutions, this inhumane practice normally resulted in death. Although the colonial era’s methods of handling the mentally ill are considered barbaric by today’s standards, most people were content because the mentally ill were out of sight. Not much changed for over 50 years, until one woman helped to make sweeping changes across the nation.

Born in 1802, Dorothea Dix was the first child of an impoverished family. Her father was a Methodist preacher who was an abusive alcoholic. Her mother struggled with depression and suffered from acute headaches. As a distributor of religious pamphlets promoting a hellfire and brimstone theology, he continually moved his family from place to place. As a child Dorothea was required to stitch and paste the small pamphlets together for long hours. Feeling abused she ran away when she was 12 to live with her grandmother in Boston.

Dorothea began her religious life as a Methodist. When she moved in with her grandmother she attended the Congregational church with her. She was not satisfied with either religion. She decided to attend a Unitarian Church service and quickly became friends with William Ellery Channing, the foremost Unitarian preacher of that time. In his preaching’s she did not hear of a Jesus who had to die on the cross to save her from an eternity in hell. Instead she learned of a Jesus who lived a life of love and compassion and called upon all people to do the same. Dorothea became a Unitarian.

In 1841 Dorothea was asked to lead a Bible Study class for women at the Cambridge House of Corrections. It was here that she discovered that the mentally ill were unclothed, in chains, and were being thrown into prisons with criminals in unheated, unfurnished, and foul-smelling cells. When asked why the jail was in these conditions she was told, “those people were mentally ill and didn’t understand anyway” That became her defining moment and the cause to which she devoted nearly all of the remaining forty-six years of her life. She proceeded to visit other jails, and soon her investigations extended over the entire state of Massachusetts. She carefully prepared and took the case to the state legislature where she won support for the expansion of Worcester State Hospital.

Once she had succeeded in Massachusetts, she traveled to other states and proceeded doing the same process. Although her health was poor, she managed to cover every state

East of the Mississippi River. Before her death in 1887 she helped found 47 mental. Their treatment methods at these hospitals were crude by today’s standards; but they were remarkable steps forward in the mid 1800’s. Upon her death, more institutions were built, and other advancements were made, especially in medicine, but no sweeping changes would be seen for 80 years.

In 1963 President Kennedy delivered a speech to Congress, where he proposed “…a national mental health program to assist in the inauguration of a wholly new emphasis and approach to care for the mentally ill….central to a new health program is comprehensive community care… …The states have depended on hospitals and homes…shamefully understaffed, overcrowded, unpleasant institutions from which death too often provided the only firm hope of release.” Deinstitutionalization drew enthusiastic support from fiscal conservatives interested in saving funds by shutting state hospitals. Civil rights advocates were enthusiastic because they believed that mental patients needed to be liberated. The Community Mental Health Centers Act was the last law President Kennedy signed before his assassination.

Liberty unchecked can come at a heavy price. The federal grants promised to the states for community mental health clinics barely materialized. Deinstitutionalization, was/and is a well-intended disaster. Many patients, in institutions, were released into the community. However, most communities did not have the facilities to deal with them. In many cases, patients wound up homeless or in jails. Currently, throughout the United States, there are three times more individuals with serious mental illnesses in jails and prisons than in hospitals. Los Angeles, Sheriff Lee Baca once said: “I run the biggest mental hospital in the country.” The good works by Dorothea Dix has gone full circle.

After my stay at Cedar Sinai, I was able to function as a productive member of society for a good number of years. Then suddenly, without warning, s began to fall apart again. This time it was different. Yes, I frequently felt depressed, however, my erratic behavior came back and was much stronger. As a result, I lost my job, and my insurance, began having seizures and I became agoraphobic. Once again I called the county mental health line and asked where I could seek help. The clerk on the other end of the line told me where to go and gave the following warning: “keep in mind that the county clinics are struggling for funding so the primary function of those who work in admissions is to not admit you.” He then proceeded with this advice, “when you get there you need to put on a good show and convince them you will kill yourself if you don’t get in.”

Apparently I am not a master thespian because I didn’t make the cut. They refused to admit me “because I was too high functioning.” I certainly didn’t feel like I was high functioning. Then the most discouraging thing anyone has ever said to me was “when you get worse, come back and we’ll see if we can get you in.” Clearly preventive care is a low priority – and perhaps, it’s not even part of the program.

At this point suicide was whirling in my brain on a regular basis. Then, one day, a friend became so concerned that she gave me two options: I could call an ambulance and have them take me to the hospital where she would meet me, or I could call my husband, Maurice, and have him take me immediately. Not wanting to cause more drama, I called Maurice in a panic and he came to my rescue.

I was taken directly to the psych ward, handed a hospital gown and a blanket and was shown a hard bench to lay on. Much later a doctor woke me and sat down to speak with me. She told me she had been talking with Maurice and determined he was supportive enough that it was safe for me to go home.

For the first time I didn’t ask for help. I DEMANDED it. I refused to take no for an answer and I told her I was not going anywhere. She was in shock. All I asked of her was a safe place to go and get the help I needed. I needed a guarantee. She walked away.

After a grueling amount of time she came back with a phone number. She assured me that if I called the number in the morning I would get the help I needed. She was going to make sure of it. I was skeptical. How would I know if I would get in? Should I demand to stay until an appointment had already been made? I took a leap of faith and left the hospital.

The next day I called the number and surprisingly I had an appointment. Not with an admissions person who would turn me away again. This time I was given an appointment with a real, honest to God, doctor. It was at this clinic that I was accurately, diagnosed as having bipolar disorder (manic depression) and therefore began to receive proper treatment.

According to the National Alliance on Mental illness, suicide is the third leading cause of death for America’s youth ages 15-24. Also, 1 in 17 adults lives with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. So, what do we do? For starters, as it’s written, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will allow more people access to mental health care. It will also eliminate being disapproved due to pre-existing conditions. But that is far from enough. Thankfully we have organizations such as The National Alliance on Mental Illness and other advocacy groups speaking on behalf of the mentally ill. But they can’t do it on their own. Not until the public demands that mental health care be treated equally to physical care will we see any significant changes.

Some of you may find it odd at how open I’ve been regarding my mental illness. I even blog about it on a daily basis. Coming out of the mental health closet was a scary, conscious decision. I quote newscaster Jan Pauley, who is also living with bipolar disorder. She said, “A diagnosis is burden enough without being burdened by secrecy and shame.” My decision to be open and honest about my mental health was made easier by all of you – a loving and caring congregation. I thank you.

Despite my struggle to get help, I am one of the lucky ones. I think of those who have no support system. I think of those who have fallen through the cracks. And most of all, I think of the 1 in 5 people who are bipolar who successfully commit suicide. I think of them nearly every day.


The Sermon

The minister at our church is currently on vacation. As a result, I had the honor of being the guest speaker yesterday morning. My topic? Why mental health, of course. Feeling an obligation to help tear down the walls of shame for many of us who live with mental illness, I chose to be as open and honest as I could possibly be. Take a look and please share your thoughts.

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Got ‘Mad Pride’?

Reblogged from Sunny With a Chance Of Armageddon:

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Got 'Mad Pride'?

A movement called 'Mad Pride' is sweeping the world.  Several news outlets, such as ABC News,  have been covering this incredible phenomenon of a world wide advocacy movement, involving grassroots organizations that openly support mental health awareness.  According to a report from ABC News, this movement is over 8,000 members strong.

ABC News and the blogosphere in general, you can make that 8,000 and one. 

Read more… 886 more words

The amazing Lulu Stark's thoughts on the "Mad Pride" movement, which seeks to educate the world regarding mental health issues, and essentially to normalize "mental illness" and bring it out from behind the cloak of fear and misinformation that currently surrounds it. I am fully in agreement with Mad Pride. I acknowledge that it is not easy and at times crashingly painful to live with a mental illness, but I am proud of who I am and proud to be part of the Mad Pride movement. Read Lulu's marvelous inspiring piece!

Money, Money, Money

So, I’ve never been good with money. I don’t know if that’s a bipolar side effect or just bad life training, but it seems when I get money, it goes…quickly

Today I had a bad argument with fiance over money. I have to admit, alot of what he said was right. I’m not aware of what’s going in and out of our account. I’m not frugal. I can’t seem to save a lick.

What’s wrong with me right now? In my life. In this moment. Why does it seem that every week..shit, everyday there is something wrong with me.

So, what do I do now? How do I learn about money now that I’m so bad and stuck in my ways? Is this really just my bipolar?


The air feels cold on my face
A reminder that this is my place
My senses awaken
My core is shaken
I’m alive and well
No longer a shell
My soul returns
Gone are the burns
I’m ready to emerge
My body feels the surge
Thoughts and emotions
Return with the same notions
My face tells a story
It is far from boring
I’ve been through a lot
But this is what I got
Lessons have been learned
My heart has yearned
My body and soul ached
More than I thought I could take
But I learned patience and grace
I found my place
I am home now, I am here
I am ready to take on another year
This time I will feel what is real
I will rise to the occasion and I will heal

Achievement Unlocked: Sewed Up Thingie!

Even though I kept telling myself it was late and that I should go to sleep, I was driven to finish stitching up the cardigan last night. Here are some pictures of the progression:

The assorted pieces

The assorted pieces

Aligning the sleeve.

Aligning the sleeve.

Seamingly well done (har har har)

Seamingly well done (har har har)

A more open sleeve.

A more open sleeve.

Halfway there!

Halfway there!

Done and done!

Done and done!

I thought about putting it on Lilbit this morning to see how it sat (’cause the shoulders look hunchback high), but I stitched it up as the pattern said I should. And I’m also concerned that if I let her wear it, I’d not be able to get it back to mail it to its intended target. I plan on knitting something for her next, whether it be this pattern again, or the next one in the book (which appears to be a shell-vest thing). All I know is that whatever I do, I need to practice the ‘proper’ way of doing increases — the yarn over method might be simple, but it leaves a bit of gapping that I don’t like. I found a video that seems to cover the giong into the back method, so I’ll knit up a few rows and see if I can get the hang of it.

Baby rabies are all over the place here in the UK — the Duchess of Cambridge is currently in labour, which means nothing is going to get done in the country today. *chuckles* I’m just relieved that it will finally be done and over with! I can’t claim to be a royalist or a republican, but as an American, I’ve always been charmed by the monarchy. I like the whole trappings and tradition, though I’ve never been one to desire to be a princess or the like. So while I have very few damns for a woman two days my senior having a baby specifically, it’s a big to-do ’cause it ties into that whole tradition thing, and it’s good to see it done and sorted. Or something.

I continue to speculate that I am undergoing a mixed episode now. It’s still hard to tell, ’cause it’s all lovely and muted and well… it doesn’t feel masked, just like the actual up and down has been constrained to a very narrow range. I am happily doing lots of things that I enjoy, finding solutions to problems that have stymied me for some time, and am generally satisfied with things. But I also find that I very much want to keep isolating — I’d rather stay home doing things I enjoy than deal with the wider world. But I also know that’s silly, and that if I make myself go to work and do things outside the house, they too will be enjoyable. Or maybe it’s just that my lazy ass wants to stay in the one air conditioned room I have access to during this heat wave, ha ha ha.

Anyhoos, I am going to go stare at my wool, and confab with the husband on what I should do project-wise. I hope everyone is having a good one, and staying cool


The post Achievement Unlocked: Sewed Up Thingie! appeared first on The Scarlet B.

First (and Probably Last) Ever Blog Contest!

If you’ve been following along recently, you’ve probably noticed that my Crazy Lady diagnostic status is up in the air. …

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It’s like coming out of smoke…

I can feel depressive episodes settling in and despite any cerebral approach(es), coping mechanisms, positive thinking, medication compliance, therapy, writing, or refusal,  it’s happening. It’s rolling in. One minute I’m waving it away…pushing it back, living my life and keeping it at bay…the next, I’m caught in thick, grey smoke, choking on the burn. I know the way out…I just can’t can’t get there.

This weekends episode was a mix of triggers and various things building, which is just how life works. Things happen. I manage what I can the best way I can but I certainly do not live in a protective bubble. (I used to wish I lived in a snow globe as a child.)  It was one of those episodes where I felt disconnected, yet simultaneously devastated, exhausted and extremely aggravated.I have a spinal issue that sometimes causes me to get stuck, quite literally, in bed. Friday morning it happened and I went quickly downhill from there. Extreme pain and immobility with everything it brings, is maddening. MADDENING!

Without all the boring details, by Friday evening, I didn’t want to even be conscious or alive. I was completely checked out, plagued with broken sleep all day and night. Saturday, I also slept. My sleep is usually broken and I have vivid nightmares on a regular basis. Friday and Saturday were no exception… it’s like living in a world of half awake sadness and terror, whether asleep or awake. I was mobile enough to do a bit by Saturday evening but found myself stuck, choking in smoke. I responded to a few texts and e-mails but forget social interaction. I shuffled slowly from room to room looking around, overwhelmed at the thought of doing anything at all. I cried while making my bed and screamed at no one in particular “I NEED A FUCKING BREAK. PLEASE. I JUST NEED A FUCKING BREAK.” I did a bit of freelance work on my laptop, then spoke to my girlfriend on the phone for about an hour, crying, while dissecting it all.  Later I laid in bed listening to music, crying deep soul cries, wondering how many other 30 something women still do this before they go to sleep…At times, it all feels so very misunderstood, angsty teen and I want to shake myself out of it, shake myself for crying and shake myself for being so weak. The night, as usual, held broken sleep with vivid, disturbing dreams.

Sunday is foggy, smokey, hungover without the alcohol and flat. I am tired. My spine still hurts but nothing like Friday. I cannot make myself go out and take care of errands. I feel weighted, sick, flat, and like my thoughts are coming through smoke. Not quite clear…but clearing. I have to pull it together, shake it off and pick up my life again tomorrow.