All the Pretty People

Public Service Announcement: brought to you courtesy of the pretty people living in their pretty homes with the best of the best available to them. Need food? They have an assistant for that. Need home cleaned? They have an undocumented worker for that. Need medical help? They have a private doctor for that. Need mental health? They have the best on speed dial.

“NBCUniversal on Friday launched a new “The More You Know” public service ad campaign aimed at informing people about how to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and reduce their risk of catching and spreading the virus… The campaign is being supported by many of NBCU’s advertisers and ad-tech providers including Acxiom; Cadent; Canoe; Crossix; Epsilon; Experian; Facebook; Panera Bread; ShareThis; Snap Inc; The Trade Desk; T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods; and Vizio-Inscape. The have donated commercial airtime, service fees, data and/or distribution on their own platforms to run the NBCUniversal-created Ad Council PSAs. ” https://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/nbcu-launches-more-you-know-covid-19-psas

The government – local, state, federal – has been warning us of the dangers of social interaction, thereby instilling a fear of fellow mankind. Adding to that are all the shaming posts and memes on social media… you know the ones, the declarations that it’s the stupid people’s fault who are going to the store, or leaving their house as the reason for the continued shutdown of life. “It’s because of people like you that we have to continue isolation,” or some variation thereof. We have to isolate ourselves in order to avoid causing the death of one person, or many deaths. (Translation: if you go out, it’s your fault if a person dies because you didn’t listen.) Everything and everyone is a potential carrier or transporter of the virus and the only “cure” for this virus is to imprison ourselves in our homes. Of course it is only temporary until a vaccine is found, but a vaccine doesn’t “cure” the virus, it just minimizes one’s chance of getting the virus by injecting the virus… or something along those lines.

Cue the pretty people: Victoria Arlen, María Celeste Arrarás, Brie Bella & Nikki Bella, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Gizelle Bryant, Andrés Cantor, Kelly Clarkson, Andy Cohen, Cris Collinsworth, Terry Crews, Ted Danson & Mary Steenburgen, Kate del Castillo, José Díaz-Balart, Reza Farahan, Ben Feldman, Erika Girardi, Melissa Gorga, Savannah Guthrie, Zuri Hall, Bob Harper, Lester Holt, Matt Iseman, Nick Jonas, Hoda Kotb, Marcus Lemonis, Erin Lim, Mario Lopez, Jane Lynch, Rachel Maddow, Dorinda Medley, Craig Melvin, Chrissy Metz, Becky Quick, Carl Quintanilla, Retta, Kyle Richards, Al Roker, Stephanie Ruhle, Tom Schwartz & Katie Maloney-Schwartz, Savannah Sellers, Christian Slater, Chris Sullivan, Michele Tafoya, Mike Tirico, Carmen Villalobos, Melissa Villaseñor, Brian Williams, and Captain Sandy Yawn.

Pretty people in their pretty homes informing the public that although we are isolated, it’s important to take care of our mental health and there is help available, just a text away to an unknown source. Wow! There it is, the cure for mental illness. All it took was government-imposed isolation to discover there is such an easy fix to mental illness. I’m so glad the sponsors donated money/time to inform us of this… I feel so much better now… guess I can sleep well tonight.

Except – yep there is an except – one question? How does this infomercial – sorry, public service announcement – truly help one person with a mental illness. These pretty people who live in a segment of society that the average American will never even drive by are suddenly telling you – the average American – that it’s important to maintain mental health by finishing that project, staying in touch with family (thought we were suppose to not interact with anyone, including family), calling a friend, “reminding ourselves to stay in tuned and connected as we experience these changes…” “it might be one of the most helpful things we can do…” And if that’s not enough to help you, well there’s always the know-all, cheerful bartender from the friendly neighborhood pub to tell us, “If you need help, it’s just a text away.” (Ted Danson, Cheers)

BAM! There it is, just a text away, all the help a person needs. Phew, I’m so glad because that was a close one.

I am raising the elephant dung flag. Let’s just break this down a bit, shall we? A person lives with a mental illness every second of every day. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, OCD, suicidal… Even in the best of times, waking up, getting dressed, venturing into the world in which they live is a feat and testament to their courage to just get through the day without ending up in the mental ward or morgue. Yet now, every fear they have is being voiced by government officials, “friends” on social media and any other number of people declaring we have to avoid each other, and only essentials shall be purchased, and only essential employees can work… examine that last one: only essential employees. Imagine, you already struggle with self worth, and that job you had was the only thing that gave you a reason to get out of bed. It wasn’t the world’s best job, just a waitress, but it gave you purpose and an income. Now, everyone has told you this job is not essential, therefore, you are not essential. Add to that the reality that now you can’t pay your rent, or your phone bill. What reason is there now to get out of bed, to live through another second of another day in a world that just confirmed every fear you have?

Add to that the places that you previously went to for peace, grounding, or a simple reminder that beauty does exist are now closed: the beaches, the trails, the parks…

Cue the pretty people: help is just a text away!

The real shame here is the “cure” will prove to be worse than the virus (disease), and the number of suicides will increase especially for those individuals who live with mental illness. But not to worry, suicide and the right-help for mental illness wasn’t a high priority of the pretty people or government officials before the virus, I doubt it will suddenly become a priority when we are told we can go back to normal (new normal).

For those of you who know a person who lives with a mental illness, defy the government orders and social shaming… visit – no phone calls or texts are not enough – actually take the time to go visit that person on a regular basis. You don’t have to offer some sage wisdom, just be there so that person knows they are not alone, and are still valuable. No, it’s not a cure-all, but it’s a start.

 

 

The Long and Winding Road

In 2013, Shelby asked me to write our story. Although finished in 2017, I was unsure what to do with it until now. Instead of seeking to publish it through traditional means, I have decided to post it here and a chapter will be added along the way. Maybe if I’d been bolder about our story then, we wouldn’t be here now. However, the past can never be changed, only how we choose to proceed. Please share as you feel led. It has not been professionally edited, so please forgive any grammatical mistakes.

Reminder: our story encompasses a brief period of time, and reflects what was being felt at that time by us. It is not a reflection of anyone or anything other than what we – the four of us – were experiencing at that time.

This is the prologue; to read the story in its entirety, click on menu and select The Long and Winding Road.

 

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

  By Yvonne C. Harper

Dedicated to Shelby D. Harper

The Long and Winding Road: Keep Walking

It happens in everyone’s life: A moment that sends you crashing to your knees. Not falling… not kneeling… not bowing, but a crash that comes with knowing that you have been thrust onto a path not of your choosing.

For me, that moment came in June 2008.

My daughter was in Florida; my son was at school; my husband was on some ocean sailing on a steel boat the size of several football fields. I returned to our fewer than 900 square feet home in the afternoon. I had worked that morning and so far, it had been a good day. I had about an hour before Garren would get out of school. I sat down at my small desk to email Paul when I noticed the blinking message light on the phone. I pushed the play button. A simple one sentence, “Call me when you get this message.” I looked at the time knowing it was early morning in Florida.  I wasn’t too worried as I dialed the number to Shelby’s best friend’s mom. Those few seconds it took to connect the call, and then for Mary to answer were the last few seconds of peace our family would know for a while. The words that drifted over the miles through the lines of communication shattered whatever normalcy existed in a Navy family. Six words was all it took:

“Shelby was raped when she was 11,” were the words that sent me crashing to me knees.

Paul and I made the decision to send her home for the summer as a reprieve. She was 14, three years after we had moved to Japan in July 2005. Japan: A beautiful country we had lived before and eager to return to given Paul was to be deployed for most of the year. When deciding where to go next, Japan was an easy choice: it was safe… or so we thought.

We arrived in the middle of summer. Upon stepping out of the airport, we were immediately enveloped in a humid, sticky heat that stems from an area brimming with people, cars, trains and industry. The children were tired, as was I having made the journey from Florida to Japan via Alabama and Washington without Paul, as he had left Florida in March. A familiar face greeted us from our days on Guam. Our friend retrieved us, our many bags and loaded us in his van – and unbeknownst to me at the time, the journey into the abyss began.

Had I known the journey that awaited us, I would have turned around and boarded the plane back to Florida, but life isn’t like that… life is taking one step at a time moving forward – so that’s what we did – moved forward to start a new chapter in our lives.

However, at that time I was merely eager to get the two-hour drive to the base done so we could check into the Navy Lodge, find a bite to eat and drift into sleep that I knew would be interrupted at 2 a.m. because my body was still on Florida time. But I was comforted by the knowledge that although we arrived without being able to greet Paul, we would see him soon enough in September.

The days that followed were filled with activities that accompany military life be it across the state, across the country or around the world. Carrying records to medical, dental, schools; sitting in indoctrination; taking a drivers license test that would mean I was the “professional” driver in a country filled with “amateurs.” Buying a vehicle, registering, titling and insuring the vehicle; moving from the lodge to military housing one third the size of the home we’d left; receiving our belongings and unpacking boxes, deciding where it all should go.

I didn’t need much help because I’d been doing this since I was 18 and knew the process. I am also quite independent and stubborn, reluctant to ask for help and be perceived as “that kind of wife.” The kind that couldn’t do anything for herself… that was most assuredly not me so headlong I plunged into the life of living overseas again with no friends, no contacts, no job – just me and my two children, an 11-year-old beautiful and tender-hearted girl, and a 5-year-old energetic, good-hearted boy.  

The move was hardest on my daughter. Moves were always hard for her – she dreaded leaving behind what was familiar as well as hand of friendship. When she found that friend, she latched on and remained loyal. This explains why she waited three years to tell her secret… waited until she was in familiar territory, in the sanctuary of her friend’s room.

But in that hot month of July, I never would’ve have imagined what path awaited us as we began our journey in the Land of the Rising Sun.