One of the great things about the writing community is the way authors so generously share support.

I attended my publisher’s Author Workshop last month. Every night I crawled in broken cowardice to the shelter of my room. (Okay, I broke and took short breaks during the day too.) After the Workshop, several other writers generously confided on Facebook about their painful experiences with social anxiety. I was not alone.

Methinks it’s not an accident authors end up with solitary occupations.

I’m a huge fan of Heidi Cullinan. She’s written a gorgeous novel entitled Carry the Ocean. (Referenced in a previous blog.) The story is narrated by two young men, one on the autism spectrum and the other with severe depression and anxiety. In one of my favorite paragraphs, the psychiatrist speaks to the very anxious second man:

“I would suggest, in fact, the greater issue is sometimes you can’t trust others because your greatest difficulty is in trusting yourself, that a good faith effort is enough. That saying you want to attempt to climb this mountain of your fear is something to be proud of. That the work you do with [your friend] is precious to many people. … That you’ve covered a great deal of ground. That you don’t have to compete with other people and their expectations of you. That first and foremost you should seek to live a life which gratifies and completes you—and striving is more than most people ever do.”

Later the young man says,

“I was amazing. I’d conquered my fear—or at least learned how to drive it a lot better. …I realized I was always this cool. I was just waiting to figure it out.”

Heidi Cullinan nailed it. She knows her subject.

Those of us who work so very hard to function while suffering with depression, anxiety, and other “disorders” need to let ourselves understand we are skating in the ultimate cool.


Auntie Neesie

I wish I could have been a loving, supportive, solid presence in the lives of my nieces and nephews. Balancing this wish is a perspective offered by author Karen Slaughter: a drowning person cannot take the time to teach someone else how to swim.

It’s no secret my family had difficulties. I have seven siblings, and genetics ensured a storm of trouble raining down on subsequent generations. I ache with sorrow for what my nieces and nephews suffered while I was busy keeping my nose above water.

It’s said that if a child feels truly seen by at least one adult, there’s a strong chance of going beyond survival into real success. While I could not serve this purpose for my nieces and nephews, they have another auntie who does. My older sister Neesie delights in all of my nieces and nephews. They feel loved and accepted for who they are, just as they are.

Neesie started her vocation with me and my two closest sisters. We were “Us Three Kids,” the youngest in the family. An elementary school teacher, she donated every vacation to our care. While Mom screamed in drunken mania in the back bedroom, Neesie taught us essential skills like cooking, baking, knitting, and crocheting. From her we learned about the facts of life and how to manage hormonal hell—not a small job with three girls barreling through puberty in succession.

Neesie saw us. She loved us, and she laughed with us. We carried the benefits of her attention into adulthood, and we passed on her brand of love to our children.

Recently I asked a couple of nieces and nephews how they experienced their Auntie Neesie. Glowing, they launched into memories of childhood bliss.

When I shared their appreciation with my ailing sister, Neesie glowed too. She laughed with delight. She said maybe she had no children of her own so she could provide love and support where it was needed.

Neesie accepts and appreciates her place in this world. She does her crafts and coloring and enjoys her time watching TV. She is joyful. She’s still teaching me how to live.

So thank you, Neesie. You are pure of heart, and you gave us what we could find nowhere else. Your gift has become a permanent part of our DNA. We’re doing our best to pass on your love to the next generations.

Quite a legacy, Auntie Neesie. Well done.





Two years ago, one of my siblings lost a spouse to suicide, and now the loss is an adult child. Unfortunately, I was helpless to remain close when this young relative’s mental illness and addictions evaporated adult relationships.

When I was little, my mom begged me to pray for her peace of mind. Because she never knew peace, I grew up believing I didn’t deserve God’s ear.

Eventually I learned one of the hallmark symptoms of mental illness is the refusal to recognize and/or treat it. It’s a moving target. Treatment can be arduous and unpredictable. Addiction is a powerful escape.

Despite the terrible rollercoaster heights and depths suffered by the afflicted and their loved ones, I persist in hope. I hope the suffering ones can hang on for the times the ride evens out.

When they must let go, I hope for their everlasting peace.