Burn Pits – Where There’s Smoke, There’s . . .
One Woman’s Opinion – Part 2
By – Sheri de Grom

Soldier on Patrol Breathing Toxins From Burn Pit

Soldier on Patrol Breathing Toxins From Burn Pit

The Office of the Inspector General reported July 11, 2013, that trash burning continues at one of the largest U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.

I reported on this tragedy in my blog of June 9, 2013, and you may read it here.

Camp Leatherneck is home to about 13,500 troops and civilians and is located in the Helmand providence of Afghanistan.

The American taxpayer has spent $11.5 million installing four incinerators to safely dispose of solid waste. Burn pits are still utilized at Camp Leatherneck, placing all in harm’s way.

In my previous post, I wrote of the contractor, KBR, Inc., of Houston, Texas, formerly a wholly-owned subsidiary of Halliburton. KBR, Inc. argued their responsibility was to continue the standard of application the military provided. The over-site contractor has allowed KBR, Inc. to continue daily operation using this philosophy as if nothing had changed.

Unfortunately, nothing has changed, with the exception of more troops being diagnosed with the chronic debilitating illness known as Chronic Multisymptom Illness (CMI).

You’ll find the environmental safety requirements of KBR, Inc. here.

The Inspector General found all of the solid waste now burning in the pits could be

Active Burn Pit

Active Burn Pit

processed by the camp’s existing incinerators if they operated eighteen hours a day. The incinerators could also eliminate the need for a $1.1 million contract for hauling solid waste off the base.

Camp Leatherneck is not the only military base with burn pit problems. Burn pits have been used universally from the beginning of the Iraq war and continue today.

A leaked memo revealed an eight-year study based on a preventative medicine team’s findings on the dangers of the air quality at Bagram Airfield. The leaked memo stated that as late as May 22, 2012, their measurement revealed contaminants exceeding healthy standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A report by McClatchy Washington Bureau reported open air burning is used only to dispose of non-hazardous material and is monitored closely to prevent risks to those who live and work on the bases.

I’m delighted to have received notification from four service members after I posted my initial blog on the Burn Pits. Additional information has been verified by the soldiers serving on the ground in Afghanistan as well as two soldiers currently being evaluated for diseases known to be caused by working and breathing the smoke produced by the burn pits.

I’ve learned demilitarization operations at Bagram continue in ways the American public will never hear about. Our soldiers are being told to cut up armored vehicles into certain size pieces that don’t allow the enemy to reassemble the vehicle. The process involves using plasma cutters which is toxic to inhale, the personnel doing the cutting need to wear a re-breather or they will have serious injury or possibly death.

During the investigation on the use of the burn pits I considered many angles of why our government continues to endanger so many service members and department of defense employees along with contractors. I definitely hadn’t considered conspiracy until one of the service members raised the issue.

Now that we’ve lived through so many useless days and nights with a congress and president that cannot work together on anything except shutting down the government, perhaps we do need to look at the possibility of a conspiracy theory.

We continue to ask our service members to not only be in harm’s way with the war but they also must breathe contaminated air.

Please join me for Part 3 of Burn Pits – Where There’s Smoke, There’s . . . My research continues.

Photo credits: (1) DOD (2) Wikipedia

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments


Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital
Erick Manheimer, MD
Grand Central Publishing – 2013
by – Sheri de Grom

Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Dr. Erick Manheimer is written with passion rooted in medicine anthropology, sociology, psychiatry and a broad range of politics and economics thrown in.

Doctor Manheimer guides the reader through the fabric of medicine practiced at Bellevue Hospital by way of weaving in the stories of twelve patients and the care each receives.

Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital is about more than Bellevue, it’s about people, families, caregivers, cultures, communities, desperation, despair, resilience and hope.

Other reviews of Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital that I’ve read criticize Dr. Manheimer for his detailed descriptions, but it’s those very descriptive narratives that allowed me to be at the doctor’s side as we moved through the hospital handling one crisis after another. Doctor Manheimer’s passion for people and his desire for each patient to receive the best care available are not often found on the administrative side of a hospital.

Doctor Manheimer was Bellevue’s Chief Medical Officer for fifteen years. He acknowledges the soaring cost of medical care, but has never once recommended withholding additional treatment if another more expensive but different modality might have better consequences for a patient.

The twelve patients we meet in Dr. Manheimer’s book include a fallen Wall Street titan, a gang member, victims of domestic violence and street crimes, organ donators, psychotic street people, abused and traumatized children who live a life of emotional chaos, the undocumented and the uninsured—the latter of which compromise a sizable portion of the people served at Bellevue.

Dr. Manheimer utilizes the twelve patients he discusses as springboards to address greater social ills. His book has an overt liberal agenda and I didn’t often agree with his suggested fixes to problems. However, his personal agenda didn’t keep me from being one-hundred percent joyous that he was willing to honestly open the doors of Bellevue in a way that no one has ever done before.

Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital will go on my ten best books I’ve read in 2013. Dr. Manheimer is not only a doctor, but he’s an excellent social commentator. He’s written a book that could be described as tough medicine.

The genre of Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital is memoir but it doesn’t read as a memoir by formula. The everyday tragedies existing at Bellevue are just as deadly as the swelling sea in The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 46 Comments

Vets Rally to Curb Military Suicides

Check out this great MSN video – Vets Rally to Curb Military Suicides.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments


My Therapist Has A Golden Heart – Mental Health
The Fourth House
by – Sheri de Grom

The headlines read, “Obamacare Should Help Those With Mental Health Issues Advocates Say.” The operative word in the previous proclamation is ‘SHOULD.’

I was enraged while watching a live interview of President Obama with Liza Zamosky

Affordable Care Act

Affordable Care Act

on March 16, 2014. During the interview he answered questions about the Affordable Care Act. I couldn’t (or didn’t want to believe it) when I heard the President of the United States say, “We choose what we think is best for you.”

How does the President or any other pencil pusher know what medical care is best for me. The administration has met their goal’ they’ve managed to socialize our health care.

Health Day, reporting news for healthier living, reports people with mental health issues are discovering ways that the legislation directly affects them.

Before I stop writing about this so-called landmark legislation, I’ll bring you proof wherein the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has closed the door of mental health care on millions of Americans that HAD MENTAL HEALTH CARE COVERAGE BEFORE OBAMACARE and now that coverage is gone.

Health Day reported on Oct. 15, 2013, that an estimated 32 million people will gain mental health or substance abuse disorder benefits, or both, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Obamacare likes to take the credit for writing parity into mental health legislation. They are treating it as if no one could have possibly thought of this idea before. How arrogant can one administration be with the lives of its citizens at stake?

Parity in mental health care was first written into law in the 80’s. I know this because my own federal insurance plan paid all medical claims at 80% and others at 100%. However, all of my husband’s mental health care claims were paid at 50%. I knew I had to find someone who not only I could help but someone who could help me.

Care for my husband was going to be in the millions and even more and I would never have the 50% I needed to cover our cost-share. Thus, my first adventure into writing a legislative proposal was born and my career took flight at the same time.

Fortunately, I was working at JAG at the time and had access to the latest legal information on the subject of case-law regarding all health issues, not just mental health. I searched the Federal Register (it’s the official journal of the federal government of the United States that contains most routine publications and public notices of government agencies and I might add, it is boring to read. I suspect the reason so many administrative laws pass is the individuals assigned to comb through the Registers every day, simply don’t). I also had access to Westlaw (an online legal research dedicated to law). I wrote up a proposal and two weeks later was boarding a flight to D.C. to meet with the late Senator(s) Ted Kennedy and Paul Wellstone. I knew the two senators were my best bet for achieving my goal as they were both passionate about mental health law and ways to improve coverage.

The senators were a bit taken back by my insistence on the urgency of passing legislation regarding parity being written into mental health law but they were more than willing to assign staffers to help me refine the final bill and with their support, we gained approval for all federal and many Fortune 500 insurance plans to cover mental health at 100% or the same as all other illnesses.

I learned how degrading and ugly insurance company lobbyists were. Pharmacy and other health care lobbyists joined in the fight against legislation.

Today’s Affordable Care Act has written parity into the law so mental health coverage should be much easier to access. Again, ‘should’ is the operative word.

Andrew Sperling, director of legislation advocacy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is somewhat circumspect about the changes and is in a waiting position to see how well what’s promised will actually deliver. NAMI

A specific problem NAMI has is a result of the Supreme Court decision, the Medicaid expansion is optional, and a large number of states are talking about not participating. Mr. Sperling continued, “Some of the benefits vary depending on where people live,” he explained, “people in some states won’t see the full benefits accorded by the law.”

Additional concerns expressed by providers regarding mental health coverage and the ACA include:

  • Providers are still required to obtain prior authorization for treatment sessions. This can result in endless paperwork and numerous telephone calls before authorization is received.
  • Evidence-based practice does have standard lengths of time for support. A patient may be in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and evidence may suggest that 12 weeks is the standard, and once someone is out of the extreme crisis, group treatment may be an option. [In later posts I’ll talk about my own experience with PTSD treatment and why 12 weeks wouldn’t have uncovered the surface and allowed me to work in a group).
  • Though some want no limits on the number of treatments available for someone with a mental health disorder, the law now mandates that all insurers offer a length of treatment that’s on par with what’s available for other health issues.

Access to mental health care is more difficult than ever to obtain. In a later blog I’ll talk about how mental health care has now become a cash-only business for more than 50% of all members of The American Psychiatric Association.

My therapist goes above and beyond in her insistence that she believes one day I’ll get everything sorted out. I’ve been billing Medicare myself as she is not a Medicare provider. I don’t want Medicare to pay her and they are not obligated to pay her. With each claim I submit and every time I call Medicare (minimum of once a week), I remind them that the only thing I want is for them to deny my claim with the proper code so that I then can submit the claim to my Federal Blue Cross/Blue Shield who will then pay for her services. I’ll be blogging in-depth about this subject later). Blue Cross/Blue Shield will pay my claims if and when Medicare cooperates with my request(s). I’M REQUIRED TO BILL MEDICARE FIRST ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE NO OBLIGATION TO PAY.

My next step is to ask my congressional representatives’ and other national mental health advocates to help me in my efforts to teach Medicare how to interrupt the existing law.

My therapist has never asked me for payment for her services. She has not been paid since 2012 when I turned 65. Before I turned 65, my mental health care claims were paid at 100%. Now that I’ve become a so-called senior citizen, I’m relegated to a citizen with no mental health care with the exception of having a mental health provider with a golden heart. She recognizes my tough woman persona and when it comes crashing down, she gently helps me to the other side.

           To be continued . . .   


Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments


Mental Health and Unconditional Love
The Fourth House
by – Sheri de Grom

I wrote a blog titled, ‘Mental Health – You Can’t Go Home Again’ in January 2014.

It’s with love and thanksgiving when I read Tom’s comments on my blog. Tom doesn’t blog and he rarely comments on what I write verbally and normally I don’t know if he’s read my blog or not. He posted a comment on January 22, 2014 using my avatar and I want to acknowledge how much his comment meant to me.

Tom wrote: The ‘Home’ Sheri is talking about is mine, and the ‘Tom’ is me. Growing up in a house without love is especially hard for an only child. The only thing that brought me hope was Sheri and a rancher from Kansas that sat tall in the saddle, Loyd, her father. He treated me in a way that my real father never did and I still consider Loyd to have been more than a father-in-law to me but a father. I worked for years to get my father’s harsh words from ruling my life (the first thing he said to me after being away from home in Germany was G*** D**** boy you are fat.) I was good enough for the Army but not for him. Now I’m trying never to forget the role model that was Loyd Lawrence. Signed  -  Tom de Grom

Dad after shooting rapids with Tom on Umpquah River

Dad after shooting rapids with Tom on Umpquah River

On January 23, 2014, I responded to Tom on the same blog.

Dear Tom: How could I possibly read the above message from you and not cry for the father you never had and the fact that my dad, my very own John Wayne, showered you with love and appreciation. Dad’s love for you was never about your willingness for us to take care of him financially after he lost so much in 1999. You lovingly invited Dad into our home time and time again and yes, we often did without many of the things our peer group enjoyed because we elected to make life easier for a man we both loved. When Dad wasn’t with us, he had stories to tell his friends about the places he’d been and the exciting things he’d been able to do. You also saw things that I didn’t have a clue about. You knew how much Dad loved working in his shop after he was no longer on the ranch and you provided the best equipment possible.


Dad was distraught that he’d no longer have a place to keep his old cow pony, Smoke. You made it your number one mission to locate Dad a place to live wherein we’d own the property and he’d never have to worry about moving again. Not only that, but his house was in a town where he went to high school and already knew everyone, and probably best of all is that we bought the empty lot on one side of Dad’s house with an additional house for a rental. This gave Dad something else to be responsible for. Suddenly he found purpose again.

Smoke probably had the best retirement plan in the world. We all tried to keep him in the country where he’d be well taken care of and Dad could visit him every day whenever he wanted. But, Smoke didn’t like that arrangement and continued to jump the paddock fence at age 18 and traveled the eight miles into town to stand on Dad’s lawn most days.

Tom, I’ll never be able to thank you for loving my father unconditionally, the same as myself. Of course, Dad did say, when he walked me down the aisle to become your wife, “It may have taken you forty years, but you finally got it right.” Tom, I’ll always remember Dad’s sense of pride on our wedding day. He knew his youngest child and only daughter was finally going home to a man who loved her as much as he did.

Loving you more today than yesterday.  Sheri

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 54 Comments


Please, Not the Phone Again
One Woman’s Opinion
by – Sheri de Grom

Could there be a drone hovering outside my window or even doing a fly-over of my home? Instead of it being a delivery from Amazon, the drone will be collecting information robocallers might find useful when they call our number and the tranquility of our day is pierced.

The robocallers who continue to call day after day include: telemarketers, survey-takers, politicians, charities, scammers and many others.

Legislation has passed protecting cell phones but it’s open season for land lines. We occasionally receive an unsolicited cell phone text message but somehow that doesn’t offend me as much. Perhaps it’s because I’ve already made the decision, when I elect to pick up my cell phone, that the messages are simple to delete without ever opening them.

As difficult as it is for some of my friends to understand, I go days on end without answering my cell phone. I don’t carry it around with me in the house and the only time I make sure it is charged is when I go out and about. My theory is that if someone knows me, they’ll call the land line.

An advantage of moving so often with my career is that I don’t remember robocallers and I’m positive I would have. The many times I needed to be available for my work and Tom’s medical care during those years, I’ve never thought twice about answering the phone.

I believe I’ve taken every step necessary to stop the robocalls to our land line. I’ve placed us on the ‘donotcall.gov’ list more times than I can remember. A handful of states prohibits or restricts political robocalls. However, political groups need your permission to call your land line.

Political campaigns often get phone numbers from voter-registration rolls. A not-for-profit group in DC, the Citizens for Civil Discourse, has several suggestions for avoiding telephone intrusion. One suggestion seems so simple. Many of us automatically include our telephone number and e-mail address, out of habit, when we register to vote. Yet, only your street address is required by law.

I’ve heard many individuals talk about changing their political party affiliations for the upcoming elections. I’m included in that group and will be registering as an ‘Independent.’ I’ll know not to include my phone number or e-mail when I complete my new registration. Of course, my information is available from any number of public sources and not difficult to obtain.

If you don’t want to be bothered by excessive political/campaign robocalls, you can always call the politicians campaign headquarters and say, ‘If you robocall me, I will not vote for you.’

You can also add your name to the National Political Do Not Contact Registry (stoppoliticalcalls.org). This is a not-for-profit organization.

For several months I’ve simply screened calls but, I’m tired of having unwanted and unasked intruders into our home. I now answer calls but quickly write the incoming phone number down before I answer it. If the robocaller gives me an opportunity to press a number to indicate I want to be taken off their call list I do so. If they persist, I add the number to a growing list I have to report to the Federal Trade Commission. You may also report repeat offenders to your State’s Attorney General Office.

The information you must collect to file a valid complaint includes: telephone number of the caller (now that robocallers are using throw-away phones this is becoming more difficult. Additionally, many of the calls will appear on your screen as blocked numbers. We have a policy in our home that we never answer a blocked number.

To file the complaint you’ll need the time of day the phone call came into your home, an approximate number of times the caller has previously called you and of course, the topic of the conversation. The more details you remember, the better. Beware of the following:

  • Unsolicited telephone calls that try to part you from your money.
  • A robocall from a company you’ve never heard of offers you a great insurance rate or a low-interest loan. Such pitches are illegal and probably fraudulent.
  • Beware of companies offering consolidation of your debts. Many not-for-profits now provide this service and they provide a statement each month detailing how much was paid to each of their credit-holders. The non-profit organization insures you will continue to receive monthly statements from your account-holders. Thus, you maintain a checks and balances.

The not-for-profit does all of the negotiating with the creditors.

However, if an organization approaches you by way of telephone or other means of communication, claiming to be a not-for-profit organization, you must investigate their not-for-profit status and speak with client references.

  • Beware of any insurance company or medical supply house that has obtained personal information about you. (Many businesses now pay custom firms for individualized data per individual and the caller knows more about you than you can imagine when they make the call to your home).  Had I agreed with any number of different companies, I’d be paying hundreds of dollars each month for diabetic supplies. Instead, my health insurance covers 100% of my supplies at a local independent pharmacy.
  • Currently three fraud alerts have been issued about two different scams. One is for a dental protection plan that covers a minimum of 50% off your dental bill before it’s ever submitted to any insurance you have. Approach this call with caution. They frequently use a local cell number that can’t be called back.
  • The second ‘beware of’ is the call that begins with a voice saying words to the effect of, “This is the FBI and we’re receiving a record number of break-ins in your area.” This ruse is being used by someone who wants you to tell them about the risk factors at your address, etc.
  • The third and most infuriating to me is the local cell number beginning with the caller asking you to press 1 on your telephone keypad so they may make a delivery of two medical alert devices. They use the standard line that someone else (possibly a friend or family member) has already paid for the devices.  The last time I answered, I interrupted the caller many times and asked who had paid for the life alert devices and the caller continued reading his script until I hung up.

Can you imagine what a chain of events any of the scammers could put into place if I agreed with anything they had to offer?

Most days I’m content to screen calls but that’s not an option when my husband’s sleeping. I’ll grab the phone immediately in the hopes the sound doesn’t wake Tom.

How about it? Do you have methods to get rid of these pesky robocallers once and for all? 

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 77 Comments


Mental Health – Stigma in the Emergency Room
The Fourth House
by – Sheri de Grom

 Journal Entry: Random entries beginning Dec. 7, 1987, Monterey, California.

My husband, Tom, and I had endured a year-long odyssey of medical exams for him.



Neither our internist nor specialist could find causes which rendered him unable to digest food. He also experienced irregular heartbeats and anxiety attacks with uncontrollable shaking.

Our internist always welcomed us and listened carefully and conscientiously, never suggesting that Tom might be a hypochondriac, or I, a hysterical wife. She met with both of us and conveyed her earnest desire to continue searching for the cause of his decline.

She’d guided us through the medical maze until we ran out of options. The day came when she suggested to me, “You might want to consider going through the Emergency Room for a mental health evaluation. It’s not the perfect solution but it’s the only choice you have.”

Our arrival at the emergency room that first time on December 7, 1987, seemed surreal. A stiffly starched nurse, features empty of emotion or sympathy, recorded Tom’s vital signs. She moved abruptly, and never spoke. Somehow, I knew this foray into mental health care would be barbaric compared to our previous health care experiences.

A no-nonsense orderly escorted us into a private room, with two chairs and a table. A holding cell couldn’t have been bleaker. I felt the loss of freedom and entrapment as brutally as if we had both been handcuffed and strip-searched.

Forty-five minutes dragged by. Then, without warning, a psychiatric nurse burst into the room and relentlessly fired questions at Tom, seeming oblivious to his emotional state and physical symptoms. Tom’s body shook with tremors so severe he could barely stay seated. He couldn’t speak to answer her questions. Where were her observation skills? Anger strangled me. Had we interrupted her gossiping at the nurse’s station? I gritted my teeth to suppress my rage. I struggled to stop myself from shouting: my husband is an ordinary human being in extraordinary pain!

When the nurse left, Tom remained locked inside his mind. I tried to no avail to see in there, too. Was it safe? Was it dark? What was it like on the inside looking out? Could he even see out or had the hatch been secured so tightly that only shadows, phantoms and gloom resided there? What happened when a mind was capable of only one thing – suffering? I felt powerless and interpreted the terror in his eyes, ‘what’s happening to me? Please help!’

A rumpled-looking admissions clerk entered the room and handed me some papers to read and sign. Wordless, with an air of false authority, the orderly reappeared and plunked Tom into a wheelchair.

“Wait!” I shouted. “Where are you taking my husband? You don’t have permission to move him.” I’d always had control of Tom’s care. Who told this brash stranger to remove Tom from my sight? No one could care as much for Tom’s well being as I did.

The admissions clerk returned and spoke in an unbearable monotone, “Mrs. de Grom, your husband is safe now. Come along and we’ll complete his paperwork. You might be able to see him later tonight.”

‘Come along?’ I was enraged but at his mercy.

A nerve-racking two hours later, I approached the admissions desk again. “When can I see Tom de Grom?”

The clerk looked up with a bored expression and an upside-down name tag. “Let me check.”

He made a call, then rested the phone in its cradle and advised, “The unit is processing Mr. de Grom tonight. You can see him during normal visiting hours tomorrow. That’ll be five to seven p.m.”

“What? What do you mean? That’s only two hours.”

“Tomorrow you’ll get information about how the unit operates. Have a good trip home.”

I’d been dismissed. Just like that. My world had forever changed.                                                                                                                                                           

As I left the hospital, I’d never felt so lost and alone. I’d always had a plan and a method for executing it. I’d always excelled in my profession but nothing had prepared me for this.

Clutching the leather steering wheel of my trusty Volkswagen, I slumped over and sobbed. I cried for Tom, for myself, for the life we had planned so carefully. I cried for the sweet promises we’d made to each other the day we’d wed and danced under the flower-covered gazebo overlooking the roaring turquoise Pacific Ocean. We’d laughed and declared the song, Strangers in the Night, our own. It was our song, our dance, our story.

Yip, my little Shih Tzu, snuggled into my lap as I started the drive home. He seemed unusually quiet, but the steady, familiar beat of his heart was bittersweet against my churning stomach. Would I ever feel the beat of Tom’s heart against mine again? How could I have left him there?


This blog as well as all my previous Fourth House series blogs are dedicated to every person suffering from a chronic mental illness and their families and loved ones.

A Canvas of the Minds is a unique collaboration of different perspectives on mental health and life. I’ve elected to continue my fight against the stigma that accompanies mental health.

Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project

Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project

With this post, I pledge my commitment to the ‘Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project.’ I will continue to blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. The time has come for everyone to set aside the stigma that haunts those with brain disorders and those of us who love them.

The blog I’ve posted today is taken from my journal notes beginning December 7, 1987 and moving forward approximately ten days. I was emotionally wrung out the night I left Tom at the hospital and drove home alone with the exception of my dog, not knowing if I’d ever see the man I married ever again. His haunting gaze, trembling body and inability to form words filled me with a terror I’d never encountered before. Tom’s illness brought me to my knees time and time again.

I was supposed to be the strong one. The one willing to take on the toughest case The Staff Judge Advocate could throw at me and obtain the conclusion he demanded in the government’s interest. I’d never lost. Failure was not a part of my world. I was fearless and never afraid. With Tom’s illness I’d met an enemy I had no idea how to conquer.

The professionals where Tom was admitted on his first of twenty-seven mental health admissions demonstrated to me how severe stigma is against the mentally ill and their loved ones. When the professionals in the mental health arena demonstrate inappropriate behavior, how will the child in the schoolyard learn to act differently?

Thank you for reading with me.


Our Lives Disappeared With Bipolar Disorder

Electroconvulsive Shock Therapy – Barbaric Torture for the Patient and Family

The Aftermath of 55 Years of Memory Loss

The Wrongs of Psychiatric Care – Part 1 of 2

The Wrongs of Psychiatric Care – Part 2 of 2

Medical Care Discrimination – Physical vs. Mental

Therapy – Who Needs It? – Part 1 of 3

Therapy – Who Needs It? – Part 2 of 3

Therapy – Who Needs It? – Part 3 of 3

One Is A Lonely Number

Anniversary Trigger Dates

Christmas Memories

This Moment In Time

You Can’t Go Home Again

Sharks At My Grave

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 67 Comments

FanFoFeb: Teenage car crash!

sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches.:

Each day serious injury and death statistics climb due to the marvel of modern technology. Where’s your cell phone when you’re driving?

Originally posted on willowdot21:

Petal and Beer Cans Rose petals, a can of larger and broken glass tell a tale.

This should make you cry, I doubt it will fail.

If the car was speeding and the driver had a drink.

If young people died as a result,what would  you think.

A floral tinny tribute, can that be right.

I doubt grieving parents would of agreed that night.

Speeding cars and drunken teenagers do not mix

Don’t drive cars if you’ve had a fix.

They will be be dead  they will be gone

It those  left behind  that have to carry on.

Was it worth the last drink was it worth  the fun?

Will you ever  be able  to get over what  you’ve done.

Will your Mum be able to look at  you again

Without having to hide the pain.

Of  knowing  you have killed by what  you’ve done

Was that last drink worth it, was that…

View original 22 more words

Posted in Reblogged Post | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

de Grom’s Top Ten Reads of 2013

de Grom’s Top Ten Reads of 2013
Book Reviews
by – Sheri de Grom

Sheri de Grom’s Top Nine Fiction Novels and a Memoir 

Please note that not all of the novels listed in my top ten for the year 2013 were published in 2013.

The number one criteria I look for in any read is purpose. If the purpose of the book is absent or weak, I’ll not read beyond the first fifty pages.

My top ten picks aren’t listed in any particular order. I selected them from the 57 fiction novels, 9 memoirs and 28 non-fiction books I read in 2013.

I did not include non-fiction in the top ten list as reading interests are individualized. Each book contributed equally to my passion for excellence in storytelling.


The Comfort of Lies – Randy Susan Meyers                                   

Slow Dancing on Price’s Pier – Lisa Dale

Calling Me Home – Julie Kibler

The Promise of Stardust – Pricille Shibley

The Pieces We Keep – Kristina McMorris

The Meryl Streep Movie Club - Mia March

The Wedding Dress – Rachel Hauck bOOK - tHREE SISTERS books - Life and death at bellevue

Three Sisters – Susan Mallery

Life and Death at Bellevue HospitalEric Manheimer, MD **

Margaret From Maine – Joseph Monninger

** annotate memoir

Note: Kristina McMorris is the one author that has made my top ten lists two consecutive years. In 2012, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves was the most requested novel from all long-term care Veteran’s Reading Groups. The Pieces We Keep holds the same title for 2013.

Each Veteran’s Reading Group is facilitated by volunteers consisting of military wives whose husbands are deployed.

If interested, you’ll find my 2012 Top Ten at: http://sheridegrom.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/sheri-de-groms. . . ovels-for-2012/

Thank you for reading with me.


Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments


Sharks At My Grave
The Fourth House
by: Sheri de Grom

From Journal Entry: January 2001, North Carolina.

‘As I look back over twenty years of living and loving Tom with bipolar disorder, I acknowledge how much of my life I carelessly discarded. Somehow I’ve imprisoned myself in an imaginary tomb: sinister, gloomy and cavernous.

I throw pieces of myself, one at a time, into this grave. I don’t want others to witness me floundering with Tom’s disease or observe the nonstop apprehension and terror I feel.

I pretend life has proceeded as planned and forged ahead with my career while masquerading as the person I perceive others expect. I’m adept at concealing the person who represents the real me—especially from myself.

My bitterness and disappointments toward myself churns deep. I’ve pushed away friends and acquaintances and now I’m alone.

Sleep is something I used to do. I can’t indulge any longer for fear of my reoccurring nightmare. Sharks will again circle my grave more and more menacing until in a panic, I finally manage to surface from the twisted clammy blankets to wrest myself.

‘My night terrors always begin the same. A shark sticks its head out of the ocean, where I’ve been abandoned and asks, “Tell me all you know about brain disorders, and I will go away and never return.”

I have nothing to offer, I don’t know anything. How can I pacify this cold-blooded predator when I’ve learned nothing?

I notice the happy face of a blue gill tuna. He has the audacity to come ashore and sit by a campfire I’ve made. In a friendly tone, he questions, “Hey, what’s happening?”

How can I explain I’m oblivious, numb and have no interest in or zero trust enough to bare my soul? I can’t be vulnerable by revealing to a new friend just how lonely and afraid I am. Nor can I admit my life has turned upside down like a capsized raft, and I don’t have a clue of how to right it.

With the eternal wisdom of the sea, an octopus propels himself out of the ocean and reaches out to hug me with all eight arms—b-ut—I’ve forgotten how to accept hugs and condolences. The pain is so intense I long for the darkness of my nightmare tomb. My unwelcome feelings remain locked away.

A shark appears again out of nowhere. He snaps, “I can make short work of your pain and misery. I’ll be happy to help you into that coffin you’ve constructed for your own pity.”

Simultaneously, I see porpoises at play, reminding me they could have chosen to be victims of the harsh and brutal coastline, but instead they are content to play and soak up the rays of the sun. They intuitively know what I’ve not yet discovered: it’s more fun to play with others than to internalize my fears.’

Today, emerging from bed and getting dressed, I headed to my garden sanctuary with a fragrant cup of coffee. Rage, anger, and irritability compel me outside. I do my best thinking while gardening and I can once again live with Tom’s brain disorder after a refreshing respite with Mother Earth.

Gardening allows me to tune out my obsessive worries and fearful thoughts. I’m alive with the flowers, birds, bugs, and gray or blue skies.

I watched the leaves I’d raked and piled in my wheelbarrow dance crazily in the wind. The leaves were powerless; the same as Tom is within the vindictiveness of bipolar disorder. How could I not be enraged that our life expectancy and plans have been radically shortened and forever altered?

Thinking about what had actually driven me into the garden, I became aware of how livid I’ve become with my inability to talk with family and friends about Tom’s disease. My disappointments, loss of candid conversation and thoughts of abandonment has built walls around my heart over the years; now no-one speaks of Tom’s disease.

I’ve studied my daily journals page by page and often I’ve recorded multiple entries on any given day. I carry my journal pages with me everywhere and I think of them as a friend in whom I can always trust and confide. On particularly bad days, it’s my only place I find an old familiar friend.

Not only are my journals a useful source of information for this blog, they’ve proven invaluable as an accurate record of Tom’s medical care. I’ve recorded every medication or change and the prescribed amount, plus the doctor’s name. I’ve even annotated doctor appointments to include name, location, date, purpose of visit, and obtained a copy of the medical records of that visit to store in a separate notebook.

Additionally, I keep the same detailed information regarding all tests and other procedures performed on Tom’s behalf. Unfortunately, I didn’t do this during the years I worked and the result has been non-repairable organ damage. Keeping up with any catastrophic illness and the fall-out that goes with it is a monumental challenge.

My goal in providing this blog is to emphasize the importance of my journal and the importance of medical documentation. There’s a saying medical personnel and insurance claims adjusters hold to the highest standard, “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.”

My journal provides more than medical information. It documents the emotions I felt and the events surrounding those feelings and often details how I worked my own feelings out so that I might live with myself.

People with bipolar disorder have no control over their mood states. Those of us who do not suffer from a mood disorder often expect mood-disordered individuals to control their emotions and behavior the same as we do. When we sense we are letting our emotions get the best of us and we want to wield some control over them, we tell ourselves things like, snap out of it, get a hold on yourself, try and pull yourself together. We’re taught that self-control is a sign of maturity and self-discipline. We’re indoctrinated to think of people who do not control their emotions very well as being immature, lazy, self-indulgent or weak. But you can only exert self-control if the control mechanisms are working properly. In people with mood disorders, they are not.

One of my journal entries during this same time period reads, ‘If Tom suffered a heart attack, or a fracture that would not heal, no one would wonder why Tom was in the hospital again. But if I say his mind is adversely affected by day-to-day events, most people fail to see any problem at all.

No one wants to hear that your brain can go bad, just like your body. Tom’s condition doesn’t mean he’s cowardly, heartless, or devoid of emotions. It simply means he no longer functions consistently because he has an uncontrollable organic brain disorder.’

Once again, thank you for reading with me as I continue my FOURTH HOUSE series. I appreciate each and everyone who comments, along with those who let me know they visited my blog by hitting the ‘like button’ and those who prefer to contact me offline. My e-mail address is at the top of the blog. I’m not a mental healthcare professional. I’m merely a woman who fell in love with the most amazing man and is committed to her wedding vow: ‘in sickness and health.’

Thank you.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 102 Comments