My Reintegration Back Into The World

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I’m in Union Station, Los Angeles, awaiting the Surf Liner back to San Diego. The trip features spectacular vistas of the Pacific Ocean, but I’ll probably sleep the whole way. A brief recounting:

    Monday: I check into a hotel in downtown San Diego. I’ll be boarding AMTRAK to LA the following morning. I’ve got the phone number of a very lovely woman I met the week before. Should I call her? I fight off a severe anxiety attack and phone. She is glad to hear from me. We enjoy a great evening together. There will be a second date.

    Tuesday Afternoon: I’m in Pasadena at the home of my good friend and mother confessor, “Jane.” She’s preparing a picnic. She pours me a glass of wine - truth serum - and I reveal to her all the intimate details of my life. She, in turn, initiates me to some of the secrets of the mysterious female sisterhood. 

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    We’re off to the Hollywood Bowl to hear the LA Philharmonic blow the roof off the dump. We settle into bleacher seats, under the evening sky, munching Asian chicken to Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” The percussionists literally run from one station to another, crashing and banging on all manner of implements. Lower brass are actually encouraged to play loud - chorus bellowing at the top of their lungs, bassoon playing in the oboe registers, baritone voice belting out high tenor, tenor up in the castrati range, soprano warbling in etherial Queen of the Night high frequencies.

    Definitely blowing the roof off this dump.

    Wednesday: I’m in Ventura with my other good Pasadena friend, “Terri.” She’s just started a new job and I’m tagging along. Unfortunately, I only had five hours of sleep, and my body and brain is rebelling. I’ll be giving a talk to NAMI San Gabriel Valley in Pasadena in the evening, and I’m definitely not in game shape.

    Wednesday evening: Terri and I arrive at my speaking gig. Outside, I meet some people who have driven from across town in LA’s notorious traffic. That’s all the motivation I need. Marita, the organizer of the event, gives me a lovely introduction, and - miraculously - my brain is back on line.

    This is only my second talk and probably last talk this year (a third so-called talk, to clinicians, I classify as a near-death experience). Ten minutes only, then I throw it open to questions. I’m only as good as my audience, and these guys are great. Excellent questions, animated individuals. I find myself feeding off them. Next thing, in response to a question, I’m improvising a comedy routine of me on the phone with tech support.

    My talk wraps up, and it’s like someone has pulled the plug. Suddenly, I’m in a state of extreme exhaustion. There are people to talk to, books to sign. Fortunately, the activity is life-affirming. Sharing conversation with people who give a damn always is.

    Back on the couch in Terri’s living room, I’m asleep before my head hits the pillow.

    I have spent the last six months in splendid isolation in the mountains, recovering from two years of accumulated stress, In that six months, I rarely ventured off my “mountain.” I scaled back my work and kept human contact to a minimum. My brain needed time to mend, to reset to normal.

  • Suddenly, two speaking gigs in two weeks, an auspicious start to dating, and reconnections with dear friends.

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    A time to heal. Now a time to reintegrate.

Published On: July 10, 2008