A Rainbow We All Have on the Inside

When we got home I showed Hank the ColorBrewer schemes, a colorblind friendly way to show data, invented by Cynthia Brewer and the visual way I use to describe the spectrum of mental illness in everyone.

When we got home I showed Hank the ColorBrewer schemes, a colorblind friendly way to show data invented by Cynthia Brewer and the visual representation I had in mind when describing the diverse spectrum of mental illness.


(sitting outside of a café after Hank’s first morning training run)

Hank: (sipping fresh squeezed orange)

Me: (sharing his gigantic double stack of Portuguese style toast which puts American Texas style toast to shame)

Hank: I am sorry I am not very conversational today.

Me: No worries. We’re doing one of my favorite things.

Hank: Eating torrada (toast)?

Me: That and something called people watching.

Hank: Like just kinda… watching people?

Me: Exactly like just kinda that. We’re observing. We’re enjoying people’s outfits and imagining where they are going.

Hank: I bet she is going to work and those girls are going to the gym. And those grandpas aren’t going anywhere just talking.

Me: See… people watching.

Hank: Mama, this man here walking by, he’s homeless isn’t he?

Me: He is.

Hank: I have seen him a lot.

Me: He has a place he feels safe around here. I don’t want you to be frightened of him, but I want you to give him a lot of space. This man doesn’t live entirely in our world. He suffers from mental illness.

Hank: Oh.

Me: Did you know that every single person has a bit of mental illness? Mental illness is like a spectrum. We all have irrational moments where our brains lie to us, just some more so than others. Mental illness isn’t a choice and you should never judge someone for something we all share.

Hank: Mental illness is a spectrum? So like a rainbow? Like a rainbow with no color only grays and blacks?

Me: That is a good way of thinking about it in the extreme. Mental illness is like a rainbow that degrades from blinding, too-bright color to only grays and blacks, but every person’s rainbow is different. My mental illness rainbow is beautiful and dazzling around the edges but in the center of each color there is a bit of a shadow. That shadow is where my pain and grief about my poor health lives. There are days when I am more in the shadow than I am in the beautiful light and vice versa.

Hank: I totally understand. I think my rainbow is solid color but with cracks in it where I get nervous and scared like around new people, crowds and stuff or about going to my new school.

Me: (nodding, sipping my coffee) But those cracks are also important. Cracks are how the light gets into dark spaces.

Hank: (nodding) That man? He speaks to himself and I have seen him hit himself before. His rainbow is gray and black.

Me: Even the darkest mental illness rainbows have bright moments. We can’t see each other’s rainbows, but we can send love and light to darken the gray days.

Hank: Does he want a home, but can’t have one?

Me: I don’t know his story, Hank.  Many people with mental illness chose to live outside because it makes them feel safer and it allows them the freedom they need. As long as a person knows that there is always help and assistant available and they aren’t hurting anyone we should respect they are making their best choices. That man can walk into any health center or the hospital and receive help. He knows that.

Hank: Same with someone who is addicted to drugs.

Me: Correct.

Hank: Are people who use drugs mentally ill, too?

Me: Not necessarily in the same way. Again, mental illness is a spectrum.

Hank: A rainbow we all have on the inside.




Mouthwash (The Conclusion)

The scene of the crime and soon as my mopped floor dried when I returned to tidy up the bathroom counter.  (I don't take photos in the heat of the moment)

The scene of the crime and soon as my mopped floor dried when I returned to tidy up the bathroom counter. (I don’t take photos in the heat of the moment)


Pai: We’re home. Hello?

Me: (manage a groan, laying on the sofa, ice pack pressed against the back of my feverish neck, counting down the minutes to when the full extent of Molly’s flu hits me)

Molly: Papa! (play with every single one of her toys once before abandoning it in the middle of the living room floor for the next) MANO (Brother)!!!

Hank: Hi, mana (sister)! You’re feeling better.

Molly: Play? Mano, play toys? (nodding)

Hank: Sure, but I need to talk to mama for one sec, okay.

Molly: Okay. Mama, sick. (nodding)

Hank: Oh no.

Me: It was bound to happen. Taking care of a puking toddler with a suppressed immune system means it is only a matter of time before I fall ill.

Hank: I am sorry, mama.

Me: It’s okay. No matter how bad the flu is it will eventually end thanks to modern medicine.

Hank: Not about your flu, but I am also sorry about that. I am sorry about this morning.

Me: That was unfortunate. Why are you sorry?

Hank: Because you were right it wasn’t a big deal at all. I made it a huge deal and I am sorry.

Me: Did you feel better once you gave yourself permission to calm down?

Hank: Yes! And I was thinking to myself what was the point? It was just a small mistake.

Me: Raging over spilt mouthwash? Yah, there are much better uses of your time.

Hank: I was thinking that most of my classmates are ten and I will be ten soon and is this, like, puberty?

Me: Um… (really wishing I didn’t have a fever for this conversation)

Hank: Was that what you call a mood swing?

Me: Yes, you were chatty and wonderful the minute before you were screaming and crying. When you are a pre-teen or a tween your body fills with hormones and a lot of changes occur and some of those changes are emotional, but you have had issues with being far too critical of yourself and letting your big feelings over power your rational self long before now. Meaning you will need to work doubly hard to tell your irrational, lying brain to calm down and only you will be able to find the best way to do that.

Hank: This morning I kept thinking I was so stupid and it was so stupid that I was so upset and you are right I ruined my morning, not the mouthwash, me.

Me: How do you think you could have handled this morning differently?

Hank: I could have listened to you and papa.

Me: Listening to your parents when you are upset is a huge challenge for anyone. I want to know how you can help yourself. There was a part of you that knew you were out of control this morning. Did you notice that part of you?

Hank: (shocked) Yes! The whole time.

Me: And what do you think you could have done to better listen to that rational part of yourself rather than totally surrender to the irrational part of yourself.

Hank: (thinking)

Me: (so sick)

Hank: I could go into a quiet room. I could do that counting thing.

Me: Count to ten three times, that is a very helpful tool.

Hank: I could have done both and I could have asked for help with cleaning up because I was nervous about being late to school.

Me: Were you late to school today?

Hank: A bit.

Me: And was there any problems?

Hank: No.

Me: So you can scratch that fear off your list. And what about your shoes? Were they ruined?

Hank: No. They weren’t even wet.

Me: (shifting the cold pack from the back of my neck to my forehead) Now that you are almost ten and you have a tool box packed full of options to counter act a mega mood-swing-melt-down what will you do next time?

Hank: I will try and listen to the calm part of my brain.

Me:  (pinching the bridge of my nose, doing my best not to vomit) Punch that irrational, lying part of your brain that wants you to think you are a terrible mouthwash wasting person in the face and move on. You do yourself no favors when you collapse at the smallest crisis. Only a calm person can be at their best in a crisis.

Hank: Mama, go and lay down in your bed. I will take care of Molly.

Me: That is a wonderful offer and I will take you up on it, but watching your sister means playing with her and not YouTube, no phone just playing.

Hank: That’s fine. I understand. Who wants to play with a person looking at their phone? I can play with her until I have to stop and study. Amália, do you want to have a tea party?

Molly: No, doctor Amália. Sit down, mano (brother). Check eeearrs, check eeeeearrrrs. (gathering her stethoscope, and doctor’s bag) Check-up!

Me: (walking away, submitting fully to the flu now that my tribe is home)



Diner Lingo (and a bad flare)



Hank: (setting the table) Mama? Are you eating?

Me: (wearing a neck brace, frying up burgers, hands swollen like catcher’s mitts) No, darling. Thank you for asking.

Hank: (sigh, abandoning the silverware, walking over to the stove to rub my back) Mama, how was your day today? Did you get to work on your book?

Me: (smiling at his compassion and love) I did not. I got my blog post up and then I went back to bed for the whole day.

Hank: You have been very feeling bad lately. Can I finish dinner for you? You can sit and tell me what to do.

Me: (sing-songie, keeping the mood light and cheerful) Thank you for asking, Hank. I appreciate your offer, but I’m all right. I rested all day so that I could show you I love you and your papa and Molly buy making this meal and sitting down at the table with you. I rested, calmed my soul and soothed my body best I could all day so I could do this and I am almost done so setting the table is exactly what you can do to help me. Thank you.

Hank: You’re welcome. And you are sure you are not eating?

Me: Yes. Food is not what I need right now. What I need is conversation, gentle laughs and a tall glass of water.

Hank: I will set your place with the tallest glass we have.

Me: (flipping the burgers) Sounds like a plan. Now, (raising my voice) who wants cheese, who wants a fried egg and who wants both?

Pai: (from the other room with Molly) Both!

Molly: OVO (EGG)!

Me: (adopting my best diner lingo) Right, one broken hen berry, one CB: walk it through the garden, one Bessie with a hen berry: sunny-side up, tuck it in a blanket, walk it through the garden. Got it.

Hank: Wait, what?

Pai: (smiling, remembering all our diner dates in America) Your mother is speaking American Diner.

Me: (winking at him) Get that table top set, Hank. ORDER is coming right up!

Hank: (to Pai) But what did she say?

Pai: She will explain it to you when the food is on the table.

Hank: (carrying plates and silver ware to the table) Hen berry? What’s a hen berry?

Me: (chuckling, day made)


Different Diner, Different Slang.  Scene from Manpower (1941)