True friends live in your heart forever, even if you haven’t seen or heard from them for years. That’s how I feel about some of the patients I lived with at the Menninger Clinic. Those relationships were part of the inspiration for writing my memoir “Where the Water Meets the Sand.”
As a teenager I had many secrets. I was so ashamed of drinking alone and getting pregnant, I didn’t tell even my closest friends. So while we had much in common and had grown up together, I felt very different from my peers.
At Menninger I finally understood that while others may appear to be very different from me – different age, interests, behaviors, background – we likely have quite a few things in common. At Menninger, those differences became the foundation for some of the dearest, truest friendships of my life.
Soon after I arrived at Menninger, the patients taught me to serve a volleyball and play bridge. I was awful at volleyball and had never played bridge. But they embraced me and found a way to include me. They made room for me on the court as an extra and let me play with a foursome in their card games. I finally felt like part of a group, not “out” but “in.”
Their acceptance made me feel safe in a way I wasn’t used to. My friends and my treatment team at Menninger taught me to trust again.
Dr. Karl Menninger had said that, with treatment, patients could become “weller than well.” I started calling my new friends at the Clinic the “weller than well” group. Even those who couldn’t “act right” and whose behaviors were not socially acceptable were still a part of the group, like a large family.
If you’ve been thinking about a friend whom you haven’t talked with for a while, here’s a reason to reach out. Yesterday, August 7 was National Friendship Day. What a wonderful excuse to remind someone, a true friend, that you care about them.