It's still not easy...

It’s still not easy.

Today is a rough and difficult day.

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Today is heavy and sluggish, and I feel like I’m walking through a Louisiana bog of thick mud that’s up to my waist. Today is colored with a hue of grey even though it’s sunny outside. The sun has been playing tricks on me, saying, “I’m here!,” but remaining out of sight. In response, and in between bouts of tears, I have been staring skyward, and wondering aloud in the same way a five-year-old would; “how in the world could something as big as the sun be so good at hide and seek?”

Today’s feelings, those of sadness and depression, snuck up on me. I went to bed last night with a mere thought of them, and even that was unsettling. But I had no expectation that I had unwittingly texted them, and they in turn interpreted the message as an invitation. I know this because as soon as I opened my eyes this morning, there they were, uninvited twins, standing bedside like the party crashers they are, dressed in unfashionable clothes and acting loud, rude and obnoxious.

I’ll be honest, even as I now type, I don’t want to share how I am feeling. I don’t want to because I am slightly, if not more so, embarrassed I feel this way. After a sustained period in which I have experienced mental health the likes of which I had not thought possible, today is a humbling experience, and a scary reminder of the past.

I thought I had left the blues brothers behind. I thought I left them standing at the bus stop, their mouths open in disbelief as I turned my back on them, walked up the stairs, took my seat and headed towards a more hopeful destination.

Since that day there have in fact been some brief stops at dark locations, but not this bleak. There have been those days during my travels of the last several years when I’ve stepped off the bus to stretch my legs only to have a big, white, fluffy, cotton candy like monster cloud move in and obscure that big yellow star in the sky.

But a helpful wind has always come along, usually in the form of a good friend, a kind word, ice cream or divine serendipity, all reminders of the fact I am not alone and life is filled with magic. And with that beneficial breeze the shadow that was filling up the doorway and blocking out hope is thrust aside, and light once again floods the room of my soul.

As far as the cause of today’s feelings, the “what” behind the weight of today, the answer to the question, if I had to say, it’s all about sadness. And, what I now know about sadness is, left unprocessed and unresolved it graduates into depression, and that’s a degree of experience that no one wants to pay for.

The sadness comes as I am now confronting the many losses of my past; a parent at the tender age of 7, my innocence to a predator at 11, the passing of 90 special needs and hospice animals my former wife, Deanna and I were privileged to care for over a 20 year span, a home I loved, a way of life that had defined who I was, and a marriage to a magnificent woman.

After years of beneficial and healing therapy, the layers that have been shed to date have now uncovered some deep heartache and hurt, and there remains more work for me to do to reunite with the orphaned parts of my being.

And yet, as difficult as today is, I am nonetheless mindful of the truth; I have a great many spectacular souls who show up in my life every day.

These are the unique and priceless treasures the universe has gifted to me; my beloved, my family, primary relationships of the past, close friends, an extraordinary therapist, a badass psychiatrist, members of different support groups, and so many others who decorate my life like pretty flowers and towering shade trees and lush meadows that run right up to the banks of sparkling rivers.

My good friend, Gregg, one of those colorful blossoms, likes to remind me,

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Today is a rough and difficult day. It hurts, and this path towards wellness is still not easy. Because of this, I will pause now and lean on the sturdy fence post of my dear friend’s words. I will go easy, taking it moment by moment, pausing to shower in the warm water of compassion and take long, slow sips from a tall glass of sweet tasting grace, all in hopes that with the dawn I’ll wake to find different guests by my bed, ones who dress better and I have actually invited.

And because you have given me the safe place for me to share, just now, I think I see the sun.

Text Me, Please!

"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late." 

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I’d like to do my part in de-stigmatizing mental illness by sharing a simple way we can create connection with those we know who are struggling. Sometimes we don’t know how to reach out, or make it known that we are available to support our loved ones no matter what. Communicating these things face-to-face can feel awkward or uncomfortable, because sometimes we just simply don’t know how. Instead of letting them go unsaid, I propose we use texting to share our feelings with our loved ones. Simple texts can, at the least, create connection where it’s needed the most, and in the most intense instances, save a life.

We have all seen it; a family of four sitting at a table in a restaurant, but instead of the Norman Rockwell scene we hope for, mom, dad, sister and brother are on their phones. They are physically together, yet emotionally separate. They are in proximity of one another, while at the same time being disconnected. 

Each is slightly bent over, eyes focused intently on the small screen they hold with reverence in their hands. They peer into the tiny monitor the same way we all do when we check our numbers on the lottery ticket we grasp, hoping beyond hope the digits on our slip of colored paper will match the magic ones. 

As we look over in their direction, we can’t help but to judge. We can’t help but to feel the pain of separation during what should be a time of bonding and unity. There is a conflict in our midst, right before our eyes. We too slump a bit, and our righteousness gives way to a sadness. This since we can relate for the fact that we too at one time or another have done exactly the same thing. 

My mother, Suzanne, had a saying, one I heard most everyday of my life; “moderation is the key.” This is the same wisdom as is the one that reminds us that even too much sunshine can be harmful. But we don’t throw the sun out with the bathwater. We regulate our time in the sun and we apply sunscreen when heading out for the day. 

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In other words, it’s not the sun that’s the problem. The sun is doing what it is supposed to do. It’s up to us to recognize when we’ve had enough, we need to find a place to rest under a shade tree, ideally the kind that stands tall with a hoop skirt type of green canopy.  

I think the same holds true for texting. Texting is not the problem. Sending messages by way of our phone to let someone know where we are, what’s needed at the grocery store, what’s on our mind, and at best, what they mean to us, is never a bad thing. Unless of course, if this is the only way we communicate, and we lose sight of my mother’s wisdom.  

Part of the issue is very few of us, if any, have ever attended a class called, Emotions 101. I missed seeing the posting in the continuing education catalog that announced the date for a class that would show me how to express my feelings. As a result, I often stumble about, sometimes hitting the mark, while at other times being way off target. 

Because of my novice status, I find the use of technology to express myself a great way to learn, to practice, and hone what someday I hope can be extraordinary skills of expression. Who knows, I might even graduate to the point where I use my phone less and less and move on to face to face. 

In the meantime, I say, let’s text, a lot, often and much. Let’s use texting as a means of positive expression, of a vehicle through which we can remind each other of how much we care, of our willingness to lend support, of our availability to walk together as we navigate life’s difficult journeys. 

Let’s send timely, specific and authentic texts to bring about delight, to reinforce possibility, to express love and create hope into the lives of those we know well, and those with whom we are just now creating relations.

Let’s surprise others with random texts of kindness, with out of the blue texts of appreciation and OMG emojis of joy. 

At the same time, I’d challenge us to balance out the use of texts with times of sitting down and writing out a handwritten note. How about we include times of belly-to-belly sharing between the times we use both of our thumbs to type out a message.

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We know what happens when we drop our phone in the water; it gets ruined and stops working. If we throw away our phones, will be without something that in the present time is useful and important. We need our phones. They add important light to our days and the conscious use of them can change and even save lives. 

Yes, at times we need to lay our phone down, look up at the person in front of us, and speak from the heart. And, at other times, it’s important to pick up the phone, maybe at the time the thought of a person crosses our minds. In that moment, let’s draft our heartfelt feelings in a text, and then press, send.  

We are all seeking connection.

We are all wanting to move from the frigid place of isolation and invisibility into the cozy, sit by the fire with a mug of cocoa warmth of belonging and inclusion.

Texting, communication by way of technology, has the power to create life sustaining connection, which is the real reason we use the phone in the first place.  

Do me a favor, “text me, please!”

Row By Row

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During the second leg of my trip from Sacramento to Hartford, I witnessed an extraordinary display of willful and blatant connection the likes of which I have seldom seen.

Towards the end of the flight, I watched the graceful movements of one of the flight attendants. Judithann, a lovely 60-something woman with a radiant smile, bright eyes that literally sparkled, crisp uniform, and a posture that would make an Army officer proud, systematically went from row-to-row acknowledging and thanking every passenger for flying with her and her crew mates.

From my seat towards the rear, I settled back to witness the individual reactions to the joy Judithann, by way of a few caring words spoken, poured over their person.

As there was no warning of the impending grace, it was apparent those in the front of the plane were taken aback by this unexpected gift. It took each person a moment to recognize this old fashioned, pull up a chair on the front porch type of gesture. But, for those of us in the back, having the advantage of seeing what was coming, we began acting like small puppies eager for the same treat our litter mate just got.

As I waited for my moment in the sun, I found myself straining to come up with some way to return what was about to be gifted to me. But when Judithann finally came to a stop in front of me, I was rendered mute, and all I could do was delight in her offering and smile in return. And, as she walked away, the connection Judithann created lingered on me like a cool mist on a sultry August afternoon.

This wonderful airborne experience is yet another in a growing number of connection stories I am packing into the satchel of my mind. Each is a tale of how the simplest of acts influence and even change our lives; how smiles heal hurts, how words transform fears, and how acts of grace pull us into the warm space of belonging when we are feeling the frigid chill of life to the core of our being.

Dr. Drew Ramsey is an esteemed psychiatrist, and I ran across a quote from the good doctor that speaks of both the problem we now face in regard to the epidemic of suicide and also the solution we each hold in our hands:

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All that has me wondering; just how many lives did Judithann save today?

The Sanctuary: A Community Of Hope

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Over the last seven years, connection with others has fueled my journey from mental “hellness” to mental wellness. 

I believe connection is the answer to the question, the solution to the riddle, and our best response to the rapid and dangerous spread of mental illness, and its oft present brethren, suicide.

I would go so far as to say, I don’t believe people so much die of mental illness as they do of hopelessness. In turn, I believe, connection creates hope, and hope saves lives. 

But, even with the remedy in hand, we still may be at a loss of how to create connection.

So how do we create connection in our everyday lives?

I speak about three ways:

  1. Names

  2. Questions, and

  3. Expressions.

These are the methods I use every day to create connection as often as I possibly can. 

For me, the more connected I am, the better I feel. Added to this is my experience that the monster of mental illness has no defense against connection. In this way connection acts like a protective bubble or impenetrable boundary where my soul can catch its breath.  

That said, I realize that works for me may not work for you. 

So, what’s a fella to do?  

Thanks to the input of a great soul, I have come to realize that there is actually a “one-size-fits-all” solution; to create an online community, a safe place for sharing, learning, and most important of all, connecting. 

I’ve gone on to discover, “community” is, in fact, the perfect word to describe what was suggested to me: 

“A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”


Today, I invite others to join my new Facebook group, “The Sanctuary.”

The purpose of the group is for people with “lived experience,” along with the people in their life, to share their personal experiences on either side of the table of, “mental uniqueness.” 

Members of the group will be encouraged to share their story, to speak openly about what works for them and what doesn’t, and to unburden their souls on the tough days, and sing their delights on the good ones. 

The group will include content and resources from notable experts, as well as personal commentary from those authors, bloggers, and advocates who are doing great work in the field of mental health and stigma slaying. 

We will collectively leverage curiously to discover answers, and when asked, share ideas and possible answers to the conditions that from time to time overwhelm us, our family and our friends. 

That said, my role in leading eight monthly mental health and grief support group meetings in the physical world has taught me this; the best groups are those based on offering support, not advice unless advice is expressly asked for.

Such will be the case in, “The Sanctuary.” 

We face a formidable foe, but he is not indestructible. It is possible to live well, and in coming together, we stand the greatest chance of realizing our birthright; mental health. 

I have witnessed firsthand the profound and powerful healing that comes when people join as a community, experience connection, and thus recharged, head out into the world feeling at least a tinge of hope. And as far of hope is concerned, a little goes a really long way!

Please join me and help create a community for one another. Join the sanctuary here.

A Tale of Two Notes

"Getting better from depression demands a lifelong commitment. I've made that commitment for my life's sake and for the sake of those who love me."

- Susan Polis Schutz, Poet

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Seven years ago, on August 31, 2011, I was going to kill myself. 

On that late summer’s day, I typed out a suicide note; a short letter to the people in my life letting them know I could live no more. 

But my life was saved, and on the day I thought would be my last day alive, it was instead the first day in a new life, the first steps in what has now been a journey of 2,668 days away from mental “hellness” and into the experience of our birthright, mental wellness. 

As I write, we are in the midst of the holiday season; the time of year that is ripe for gratitude and thankfulness to color moments in our daily routine. 

I am forever grateful that my life today is so very different than it was on the last day of August seven years ago.  

Yes, I still have days that are hard and difficult. 

Yes, I still experience a wide range of emotions, including some that are heavy and burdensome. 

And yes, there are days I don’t want to do the things I know I must do to experience mental health. 

But, I know for me to be well, I must remain true to a full program self-care, and leave it resting high atop a pedestal as my top priority. In other words, I must attend to the whole of who I am; body, mind, and spirit.

Truth be told, that attention to wellness takes work and lots of time. 

Is it worth the effort?


Yes, because attention to sleep and diet, showing up at the gym to workout, sitting with my therapist hour after hour, counseling with my psychiatrist, taking my meds every day, living spiritually, and finding meaning and purpose has taken away a crippling and damning view of self and replaced it with what I need most; compassion, acceptance and best of all, hope. 

It is absolutely worth it because gone are the thoughts that I am worthless, the belief I don’t matter to the people in my life, and the desire to end my life by suicide.  

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And that got me to thinking; what kind of note would I write today? 

What words would I use to express my present-day experience of life? 

What would I say to the same souls I wrote to seven years ago? 

I answer my questions further down the page in the form of a second note. But only after sharing the first note. 

I include the original writing to set up the comparison and the contrast, not just for all to see, but for me to realize the profound difference between then and now. 

August 31, 2011

I remember the day dawning sunny and bright. It was a typical end of summer morning; no clouds in the clear blue sky, and no chance of rain for months to come. 

After waking, I made my way to the small office situated in the home I shared with my then wife, Deanna, sat in front of the computer and began to type out my suicide note. 

While I knew the thoughts, feelings, and emotions, I wanted to convey, finding the actual words was very difficult given the fact I was aware these would be the last sentiments I would ever put down on paper. 

I wanted the note to let the people in my life know I could no longer endure the literal hell I was experiencing between my ears. I needed them to know I had to put an end to the fight I had been having with my mind for decades, believing an end to that battle would finally stop the experience of acute self-hatred, worthlessness, and most painful of all, hopelessness. 

And, while illogical in every sense of the word, as I typed out my note, I was certain that what I was planning to do was a selfless act, not a selfish one. 

The monster known as clinical depression convinced me, went so far as to promise me, that life for the people in my world would improve in the wake of my death and the absence of my pitiful and grotesque existence.

And, so I typed. 

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December 20, 2018

Thankfully, my walk towards death was interrupted, and I was saved. 

Today, 2,668 days later, I again sit in front of a computer and type out a note to my family and friends.  

But today’s note isn’t a suicide note. 

Today’s note is a life note. 

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These gifts don’t need to be wrapped.

I’ve learned a great deal over the last seven years. And, the lessons continue as I regularly sit at the feet of wise, patient and loving souls, each reminding me of simple, yet profound and important truths. 

In recognition of the holidays, and in honor of the tradition of giving gifts, I’d like to give to you what has been most valuable to me.  

I’ll add that while this offering may seem to be purely altruistic, I’ll confess to an equally strong personal motive. 

At the end of the Prayer of St. Francis, the sage reminds us that, “for it is in the giving that we receive.” Thus, in sharing what I have been taught, I am reminded of what is true.

My gifts to each of you:

  • Mental illness is finite and doesn’t have to last forever.

  • The monster has no defense against connection.

  • Connection creates hope, and hope saves lives.

  • Depression is a condition, not an identity. 

  • Mental health is a right, not a privilege.

  • We can all write a different note.  

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December Update!

One of the things I love most about what I do is the wide variety of people I get to present to.

Over the last 5+ years I have spoken to thousands of people representing a great many walks of life; from high schoolers to graduate students, prisoners to police officers, and congregants to the clergy. I’ve stood in front of entry-level staff and CEOS, those who receive healthcare and healthcare providers, non-profits and for-profit, private enterprise and government at the county, state and federal level.

How to Save a Life by Sitting Down

“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.”

Dr. Albert Schweitzer

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“What should I do?”

“What on earth can I do?”

These are the type of urgent questions that arise when we are at a loss of how to respond to the need of another. 

Such questions are not of the mundane and ordinary, “do you need any help?” variety. No, these are of the heart wrenching, desperate plea variety, asked from the space of being aware of another’s need, feeling motivated and wanting to help, but having no idea how to render aid best.  

In these moments, the experience of personal despair can be horrific. It’s like we are witness to a tragedy and all we can do is stand by and watch. 

But what if there was something we could do? 

And what if that something was so simple, so commonplace that we run the risk of dismissing it as far too modest to make a difference? 

What if we could save a life, just by sitting down?  

One Very Special Pup

Murphy was one of the many Boston Terriers who came to live at the large animal sanctuary my former wife, Deanna and I ran for many years.  

His short, compact body was adorned with the traditional black and white tuxedo markings of a Boston Terrier, and he came complete with a “smooshy” face and a “barely there” tail.  

Murphy was a handsome pup with a confident yet sociable demeanor. He held his head high, and with ears always reaching skyward, he was the quintessential Boston Terrier; an “American Gentleman,” filled to the brim with enthusiasm and gas!

Murphy was one of the sanctuary’s many special needs animals; those young and old creatures who arrived with unique disorders. Their out-of-the-ordinary characteristics, coming about either by birth or environment, often meant that had very little chance of being adopted.

But this was the very population that made up the family of animals who arrived, one by one. The sanctuary did no adoptions, and so each special soul that landed at our door did so knowing they had come to their, “Forever Home.” 

As far as Murphy was concerned, Deanna and I didn’t have much information on him. We were only told he was a special needs dog with a very serious condition. 

But, when Murphy arrived, I remember thinking, “he looks just fine.” 

Murphy moved about with ease, got along well with the other dogs, and immediately bonded with both Deanna and me. He was young, fit, and healthy looking, so much so I wondered about his “special needs.”

The only thing that gave me pause was the fact that Murphy was somewhat thin. But then again, he was a young Boston Terrier, known to many as Boston “Terrorists” given their tendency to be into everything. And, since I had come to know the breed oh so well, I silently concluded it was Murphy’s pace and exuberance that kept him lean and trimmed. 

Well, I was wrong. 

It turns out Murphy had a condition called, Megaesophagus.

Megaesophagus is a disorder where the esophagus, whose purpose is to move food from the mouth to the stomach, remains enlarged and unable to contract. Absent contraction, the food doesn’t make its essential, life-sustaining journey, and a dog can starve to death. 

It happens like this; a dog, standing on all fours, begins to eat the food placed before him. He takes a bite and swallows, but the food doesn’t move far down the throat as a result of the “mega-esophagus.” Instead, the food lodges in the upper part of the esophagus, and bite after bite, it backs up. 

And, what can’t go down, usually comes back up. 

But, in the case of a dog with Megaesophagus, he doesn’t vomit, he regurgitates, and there is a significant difference. However, without a trained eye to detect the difference, most everyone, Deanna and I included, assumes the former and in turn, guess their beloved canine is suffering from something originating in the GI tract.

Deanna To The Rescue!

It was Deanna, the true source of all of the extraordinary methods of care at the sanctuary, soon after seeing Murphy unable to keep his food down, who investigated and then discovered the root of the problem. And once known, it was Deanna who devised an ingenious solution. 

Deanna’s response to Murphy’s need was incredibly simple. So much so when she suggested it, I promptly dismissed it, declaring, “it can’t be that easy!” 

Bless my former wife’s, patient heart. 

In the end, the easy fix Deanna created proved to be the way we could effectively feed Murphy and allow him to thrive, grow and, live. 

It worked like this; Murphy would eat, and while he did, Deanna would be carefully watching him. 

Deanna had a keen sixth sense for the needs of our “babies,” and before Murphy ate too much and regurgitated, Deanna would scoop up Murphy by placing her hand under his butt, and then prop him up, so his back was pressed against her chest. 

Seeing this, I knew it was time for me to do my part; sit down.

Deanna would walk over with Murphy, and gently hand him over to me. I, in turn, would hold Murphy in the same propped up position, and then let gravity do the job of the esophagus.  

I did nothing more than sit down and hold our beloved pup. It was Newton’s famous discovery that pulled the weight of the food down into Murphy’s stomach.

Just Sit And Be

The life-saving process, the one in which I simply sat with our pup propped up, took about 30 mins. During that time, Murphy and I would sit together; his back to my chest, his head on my shoulder, his whiskers tickling my face. 

Sometimes, Murphy and I would nod off the moment we were connected. Other times, we had a silent yet meaningful conversation. 

Our “talks” were not with words. Instead, they were an exchange of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. We spoke a different language, not as loud as typical speech, but clear communication just the same. 

After 30 mins or so, I would place Murphy on the ground, and he would go off and do his thing. But sometimes I was too quick to release Murphy, and in these instances, when I didn’t give life the time it needed, the two of us would need to start over and repeat the process. 

Those occasional happenings inspired me to slow down; healing takes time, and besides, there’s no need to rush.

These “sit downs” with our beautiful boy made a big impact on me. It grounded me in reality that even in the midst of a difficult condition there is nothing I need to fix. 

Nature’s design, often imperfect, does usually, sometimes even within just feet of the problem, have a remedy to the problem at hand.

In this case, it was the genius of an amazing woman who devised a plan that aligned with natural law and thus allowed life to do the work of malfunctioning anatomy. 

All I had to do was take a seat.

This experience taught me that my primary job in this life is just to show up, and be willing to participate in a process that is orchestrated by something much greater than I. 

And, in this case, while Murphy was the ultimate benefactor, I too was blessed; our dog was saved, and I got a front row seat to the healing magic of life.   

What If?

So, what if the truth is, there is nothing to fix?

Yes, people and animals and cities and countries need help. They get out of whack, and they get sick and hurt, disappointed, dismayed and can linger in despair.

But what if just showing up and being there was the most powerful and helpful and life-saving thing we could do?

It was for me.  

I have danced with the issue of mental illness for more than four decades. The monster had kicked my butt for a very long time. But now, the tables have been turned, and I am in the throes of mental health the likes of which I never dreamed of.

What did the trick, what saved my life, was a combination of two things; putting my self-care on a pedestal, and people just showing up. 

People who….

  • Visited me in the psychiatric hospital.

  • Sent me books to read, and CDs to listen to.

  • Went with me to my doctor’s appointment, and then took me out for some ice cream.

  • Sat with me while I cried, and then held me for as long as I needed.

  • Asked me what it felt like to be depressed, and then just listened.

  • Offered me support, not advice. 

They shared a meal with me, made me cookies, help me run errands, went to the movies with me, had a beer with me, and sometimes even a shot, in those later instances they passionately reminded me, “You’ve survived 100% of your worse days. You got this, and I got you!”

They called me on the phone, and even if I didn’t answer, they left a message, sometimes just a simple, “I love you.”

They sent me handwritten notes; small, enchanted slips of paper that oozed understanding and compassion and smelled like fresh air, sunshine, and hope. 

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What saved my life, and keeps me most well today, are simple acts, done by ordinary, yet wonderful people. These heroes do the easy things, the little things, the small things that make a big difference.  

And, after each simple act, they step back and let life do the real work. 

They let life activate the downward pull of natural law to remedy the problem.

Their examples leave me confident in the belief that I can, by following their lead, respond to a plea for help, and make a difference. 

The truth is, we can all make a difference.

A life-saving difference.    

Just do it. Just show up.

Take a seat. Save a life.

A Thanksgiving Message

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Deaf Dogs Get the Best Sleep in the House; discovering blessings in unexpected places.

Today is a day in which we as individuals, families, communities, indeed an entire country, pause from the busyness of life to stop and give thanks. 

Today is all about being aware of and grateful for the many blessings in our lives. And, for a great number of us, we have SO much to be grateful for; our basic needs are met, we enjoy the company of those we love, we are gainfully employed, and we are citizens of a great nation. Our homes rest on the soil of a country where democracy, real, powerful and imperfect, is still the bedrock and foundation upon which we have built our lives. 

But, for me, today also reminds me there is another layer of things to be grateful for, including blessings that were at one time disguised, maybe even hidden.

I say this with the knowledge that some blessings are obvious and unmistakable like, “there’s no evidence of cancer” or “I’ve got great news; the baby is fine” or, “you got the job.” 

But I’ve learned that other blessings come in the form of an undesirable condition or spring forth in the aftermath of the tragedy. And while blessings that arise from apparent negativity are usually hidden, or take time to manifest, they are just as meaningful and life-changing.

A Very Special Puppy

Harmony, a gorgeous, spirited Bost Terrier, was the third pup that arrived at the animal sanctuary my former wife, Deanna and I operated for more than a decade. 

Harmony came to us at the tender age of just eight weeks, bouncy, bratty, beautiful and 100% deaf. 

Deanna had discovered Harmony on and immediately rushed to me suggesting we rescue this black and white bundle of joy. 

My ignorant, narrow-minded reply was a series of pitiful excuses masked as questions; 

  • “How will we be able to manage her disability?” 

  • “How on earth can we live with a deaf dog?” 

  • “How we will communicate with her?” 

I am such a fool. It’s like I went to a gun fight with a spatula.    

In short order, Deanna disarmed me by educating me about the genius and adaptability of dogs. Of how dogs with special needs are amazing, and how many transform their supposed “dis-ability” into an advantage, maybe even their superpower. 

And just like that, we were off the Lake County to pick up our new baby. 

A 16-year long story made short; Harmony would go on to transform my life, be my best friend, constant companion, and live at the very center of my heart and soul. 

Our “dis-abled” daughter was more able-bodied than I could have ever imagined. And yes, her deafness was her superpower. 

For starters, Deanna and I had as many as 23 dogs living in our home at the sanctuary. At times, as you can no doubt appreciate, our home was a place bursting with life and sound. And yet, when Harmony would retire to one of the many dog beds, fluff it to her liking, turn a few rotations, she would then lay down and fall “sound” asleep. 

Harmony slept peacefully and perfectly. She wasn’t disturbed by the noise and volume of life. Instead, Harmony enjoyed true peace. It was almost as if she was in one of those high-tech nap pods you find in Silicon Valley at Facebook and Google. 

In other words, because a barrage of noise didn't encumber Harmony, she was able to live in a different, quieter world. A world that allowed her to experience life at a depth of feeling few of us ever will.

Similar to other sentient beings who have one fewer sense, Harmony experienced sights, smells, and other sensations we can’t begin to imagine. Her lack of hearing only served to strengthen her remaining faculties. 

Harmony’s “dis-ability” was her “ability.” Her deafness, a condition not of her choosing, was nonetheless a hidden blessing. 

But it takes a different perspective to see this, and when we introduced Harmony to visitors at the sanctuary, the common response was one of sadness or pity. 

“Poor little deaf dog.”

In response, Deanna and I quickly assured each person they need not worry about our vibrant, rambunctious and fully alive puppy. 

Harmony didn’t need pity. 

All Harmony needed was a water hose or a sprinkler to destroy. 

One size doesn’t fit all. Nor does one possibility.

Please hear me when I say that I am not trying to argue that every problem, each tragic event, or all maladies contain some form of a blessing. The truth is, some things happen in life that will never make sense. Sometimes we can search our entire lives for a silver lining and still come up short. 

But, on the other hand, there are a great number of examples, including Harmony’s, in which the outward appearance of an event or condition initially suggests something awful but upon further investigation, and in my case, more time, something quite wonderful is discovered. 

If this is a blessing, I don’t want it!

I don’t talk much about this, but within 100 days of my release from the psych ward, my entire life came apart; the sanctuary was forced to close, our vehicle was repossessed, our home was foreclosed upon, and the resulting stress ended a beautiful marriage. 

With a borrowed vehicle, some clothes, and Harmony, I limped into the home of my two brothers, Jim, and Tom, and my spectacular sister-in-law Staci, an abode which turned out to be a different kind of sanctuary. 

In other words, AFTER getting out of the psychiatric hospital, my life went from bad to worse. 


Are you freaking kidding me?

And yet, as I type 7 years later, I am grateful for the string of blessings that did rise from the ashes of my life. 

While housed in the psych ward, I made friends with another middle-aged man, Don. When Don got out of the hospital, he discovered a men’s depression support group, and he called me and suggested I attend. 

For the next six-plus years, I did just that, and that group changed my life. From that group, I was introduced to my current therapist, my current psychiatrist, and given the very first chance to speak before an audience and tell my story. 

And now, with more than 250 talks behind me, a series of published essays, three new books in the works, a TED talk under my belt, a new-found sense of purpose for my life, and the experience of true mental health, I am grateful for the blessings that were at first hidden in the ruble of tragic and awful events.  

Don’t get me wrong, I miss the life Deanna, and I had created every day. And, if you asked me if I was grateful for living with the condition of clinical depression for more than 40 years, I’d be hard pressed to say, “yes.” 

And yet, the fact I came to the very edge of ending my life on August 31, 2011, did create massive change in my life, which in turn initiated a series of blessings that have created the extraordinary life I live today.

Become a detective.

The word, Blessing is defined as: “a thing conducive to happiness or welfare.”

I like that a lot.

On this wonderful day in which we are conscious and mindful of all we have to be grateful for, I would ask that we each look for the hidden blessings in our lives, and with evidence they do exist, share that good news with others so they can be on the lookout for hidden blessings in their own lives.  

And if you forget where to look, remember, deaf dogs get the best sleep in the house. 

Happy Thanksgiving..png

It’s still your birthday.

Today would have been my angelic and spirited Harmony's 18th birthday. I give great and eternal thanks to my ex-wife, Deanna for finding our sweet baby way back in the year 2000.

In honor of Harmony's birthday, and in tribute to all who have a blessed companion waiting for them at the Rainbow Bridge , I dedicate this essay to you.

It’s Still Your Birthday

You’re not here, but it’s still your birthday.

You died 2 ½ years ago and went to a place that lies beyond my view. But thankfully the essence of you remains, and the memory of you colors every aspect of my life.

There is no part of my day the thought of you does not influence. There is no corner of my world that does not have a piece of you in it. Each day is a reminder of the fact that you are gone, but every day is also a reminder of the fact that you lived.

What an incredible two weeks it's been!

Wow…what an amazing 2 weeks it has been!

In the last 14 days, I gave my first TEDx Talk, preached at two different churches, spoke in front of 40 police officers, 30 foster parents, 25 members of a local community organization, and sat on a suicide awareness panel at a film opening.

I could get used to this!

The two-week whirlwind started with the TEDx talk.

The event took place on September 20th and was held at Netflix world headquarters in Los Gatos.

From rehearsal the day before the event, until the end of the program, the entire experience was nothing short of life changing.

Happy New Year!

For most everyone else on the planet, today is not the beginning of a new year.

According to a recent estimate, there are 40 different calendars used in the world today, with most modern countries using the Gregorian calendar.

In other words, there are a lot of ways to track the days and weeks and months in a given year.   

That said, no matter what type of calendar you use, be it solar, lunar or seasonally based, there is no amount of sun, moon or periodic activity that’s going to make August 31st the start of the New Year on any calendar anywhere.

Except for me.

I’ve Stopped Thinking About Killing Myself

My troubled mind now calm.

It happened a month ago, on a Tuesday, at 6:30 AM in the morning.

I was downstairs in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher as I do first thing every day.

And part way through this ordinary task, I had an extraordinary realization; I hadn’t thought about killing myself in days. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I had suicidal ideations.

This realization landed with blunt force and a massive, positive impact.

No More Scarlet Letter: A Story Of Releasing Shame

I lost it all.

And I mean everything; the work I loved co-directing a nationally recognized animal sanctuary, my vehicle (I watched as it was driven away by the repo man), my home (it was foreclosed upon and then sold at auction), and my marriage to an amazing and extraordinary soul.

When the dust settled, what remained were some clothes, a used vehicle given as a gift, and my beloved Boston Terrier, Harmony.

5 Days Inside Folsom Prison; My Unexpected Trip To The Promise Land

Last Sunday, I gave the sermon at Pioneer United Methodist Church in Auburn, the oldest church in all of Placer County.

This was a slightly different sermon, one where the focus was not entirely about mental health. In this talk, I broadened the perspective to reflect on how God* often surprises and nurtures us in ways that are unexpected and truly amazing.

Anthony Bourdain: His Parts Unknown

The search for the elusive, “why?”

“But, why?”

We are all asking that question, not just as it relates to Anthony Bourdain, but in response to every suicide.

Those left behind, the ones whose grief must be limitless, understandably spend a great deal of time trying to make sense out of something they won't ever be able to.

Mental illness is completely illogical and trying to apply logic in search of an answer to, “why? “is like trying to change a tire with a toothbrush; it just doesn’t work.

“Depression can’t have you, because you're ours.”

The recent death of Kate Spade is an awful and tragic reminder of just how devastating an impact mental illness can have on a person.

The medical condition, in all its forms, is cunning, baffling, incessant and evil, and uses all means necessary to inflict horrific pain upon its undeserving victims.

Matt Haig, in his book, Reasons to Stay Alive says, “depression is a disease of thoughts.”

I believe Matt is spot on, and the sequence in my mind and those of my brothers and sisters in the world, often flows like this:

  • Depression creates a thought.

  • The thought births an emotion.

  • The emotion triggers an action.

We All Need An Experience Of Matter

I have come to know through a great number of firsthand experiences, that acknowledgment is one of the most powerful agents of positive change we have at our disposal.

By its very definition, acknowledgment affirms the existence of “something." And in the broadest sense, that “something” can be a person, place or thing. More specifically, what typically needs to be acknowledged are the people, circumstances, and conditions that exist in our world.

Below is a letter that I sent to the corporate offices at Dutch Brothers, along with the response they sent me. One person made a big difference in my life on that day, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to acknowledge that.