I arrived at Baylor for my freshman year of college on a Thursday. Just a week later, I had to unenroll over the phone on my way back to Dallas (my dad came and got me). I’d gone 85 hours without sleep and experienced that wonderful hell known as mania. Always the overachiever, I also had a significant psychotic break.
Ra-ra-ree! I’m cray-zee!
I began going to an outpatient mental health hospital a few days after coming home. That hospital was a glorified and incredibly expensive babysitter for me during the initial weeks of my recovery. I do not remember much, except I know I did not like my hospital-assigned psychiatrist.
I was nineteen, legally an adult, but I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I asked him not to tell me anything without my parents present.
Did this asshole honor my request? No. Of course not.
The jackass then discharged me unexpectedly and put me and my parents in a real bind. They both worked full time, and there was no way I could stay home alone.
My mom worked for a school at the time; I couldn’t go to work with her.
But my dad worked for our church, and his work environment was a little more flexible.
Dad got stuck with me.
I had someplace to go, but my dad still didn’t know what to do with me. He was the executive minister at our church, and he had just recruited/hired a CPA to be the financial manager. For the sake of limiting pronouns (and maintaining her privacy) I will call her Anne.
The previous financial person was a bookkeeper, and things were kind of a mess, if memory serves.
During my recovery, I acted like my eight-year-old self: painfully shy and introverted. I never wanted to be too far from my dad, even when I was at the church around people I’d known for close to a decade.
However, he had meetings that were somewhat confidential, and I obviously couldn’t be attached to him during those.
I had the attention span of a gnat on crack, so prolonged solitude was unbearable. Naturally, I also couldn’t focus for long enough to read or do anything else productive. I was stuck.
I’m not sure how it came about, but I ended up in an empty office sorting mail for Anne while she met with my dad. I do not remember who suggested it, but I was given mail-sorting responsibilities.
Bills went into one pile; junk mail into another; and anything questionable got set to the side. I cannot imagine there was much for me to go through. I was able to do it within my infinitesimal attention span window.
I went into Anne’s office when I was done. She said, “You’re done already? That was fast!”
Ah. ‘Twas the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Based on my mail-sorting abilities, Anne “hired” me to be her helper. I was given menial tasks at first, which were about all my fried brain could handle. As I started to improve mentally and emotionally, Anne gave me more responsibilities.
I was very much an assistant to the financial manager. Filing became a staple of my gig with Anne. I fell in love with it. Something about sliding papers orderly into their proper place gave me a hit of dopamine (and has ever since). Filing has structure and rules, and my short attention span could handle it well. I couldn’t tell you how many times Anne said, “You’re done already? You’re so fast!” or some variation therein.
Words of affirmation are a quick way to my heart, and Anne had an ample supply.
Because Anne worked for my dad, I couldn’t get paid for the work I did for her. I did not care. Money was one of the last things on my mind during this time.
I worked with Anne six or seven hours a day, four days a week. We spent a lot of time together. She is hilarious, and I learned some new words and phrases working with her. My favorite phrase she says is “bummer city,” whenever something doesn’t work out like she wants it to. I’ve added it to my vernacular, and I’m passing it on to the next generation.
I am close to a family at our church, and I have built LEGOs with their two youngest boys on numerous occasions. If we are unable to find a piece or put something on incorrectly, I’ll say, “Bummer city.” One day, one of the boys asked me what that meant. I told him it’s a funny way to say bummer. Several weeks later, I was over at their house hanging out with them, and one of the boys said, “Bummer city,” all on his own. (So proud.)
I quickly became quite attached to Anne. She is still one of my favorite people on this planet, and I love her dearly.
If I hadn’t come home from Baylor, I don’t know that Anne and I would’ve become friends. She is about fifteen or twenty years older than me, and our paths didn’t cross much at church.
I accepted my illness long ago, and I’ve always maintained that my episode happened at the perfect time. An episode was inevitable, and its timing was ideal for many reasons. At the top of that list is the relationship I developed with Anne.
The mental health facility did nothing for me while I was there. Looking back, it didn’t teach me ways to cope, and I didn’t improve while under their care. I don’t think the psychiatrist liked me very much, which is why he discharged me unexpectedly. It worked out well, so I can’t complain.
Anne treated me like the nineteen-year-old I was. She was never patronizing or condescending, even though I knew nothing about accounting or finance. She gave me tasks like she’d give any admin assistant, and she was eternally patient. I remember messing up quite a bit, and she never displayed any hint of frustration or exasperation. I wasn’t the most intuitive version of myself during that time, yet I know she never got angry or irritated by me.
Anne gave me something nobody else could during that time—purpose. And that was a great healer. Being productive and not having time to dwell on my situation was the best thing for me after my psychotic break. I think Anne helped put me on the fast track to recovery. I think my timeline would’ve been prolonged and more arduous had I stayed in the outpatient program at the hospital.
I eventually got to a point where I could stay at home alone (and I got my car keys back), but I chose to work for Anne. I know I was helpful to her during her first months as the church’s financial manager, and she was indubitably an angel in disguise for me during the hell following my diagnosis.
My story is not complete without Anne’s contribution to my healing and recovery. It’s taken me too long to write about this pivotal aspect of my journey.
Once I went back to college, Anne wrote a letter to my dad detailing the number of hours I worked for her and what hourly rate she would have paid me if that was an option. My parents are generous and exceedingly fair, and my dad paid me out of his own pocket.
I’m not sure how much they worked together on the execution of that plan. I was completely and pleasantly surprised. I already loved Anne, but her letter reinforced the sense of purpose I regained under her care.
Anne is humble and unassuming, and even though I’ve thanked her countless times, I doubt she realizes how important she is to my story.
This post is mostly a thank you letter to her.
There is only one Anne, and I am honored to have her as a friend. I’ve had five jobs (mostly summer internships) since working for Anne, and she is BY FAR the best boss ever, and working for her has been my favorite job.
I’ve always said I’d work for her for free if money weren’t a concern. She is just simply the best, and she is damn good at her job, too!