Reconnection …

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Back in early April, The Villages, FL …

“Force of Nature” is the best way to describe my old friend, Angela Vickers. I met her at a conference in the summer of 2000. Here’s what happened …

There was an annual DBSA (then NDMDA) conference in Boston. The D and B stand for depression and bipolar, respectively. The organization is run by patients. There is a head office in Chicago, but the real work is handled by volunteers at the grass roots. This mostly involves someone turning on the lights to a meeting room in a church basement or hospital or community center somewhere to arrange chairs and tables and spread brochures around, set out name tags and writing material, and maybe have a few bottles of water handy. This same individual is on hand to greet people as they arrive and to run a support group meeting.

Maybe the volunteer would rather be home that evening with his or her family, or holed up alone watching Law and Order reruns. Or finishing an important project or meeting friends. There are always better things to do, or not do. Anyway …

At the time of the conference, I had been putting out a depression and bipolar newsletter for a year. I had been leading a rather isolated existence, and the thought of having to make a good social impression had me on edge. Indeed, the evening before heading to Boston, I experienced a panic attack that mimicked a heart attack.

I entered a hotel ballroom where the opening session would take place, and settled into a seat in front. I tentatively greeted the person next to me and handed her my business card. That person was Angela. We couldn’t stop talking. She was serious and intense, but also a great laugher and joker.

In the years ahead, in places like Cleveland and Cincinnati, in Washington DC and Orlando and San Diego, our paths would regularly cross.  In between, we stayed in touch. She greeted me as “her favorite dance partner.” This originated in Cleveland, with an oldies band at a conference social function.

In addition to my newsletter, I now had a website going and was working on a book. Angela was raising mental health awareness amongst the judiciary and legal profession in her home state of Florida and was taking her message to a national audience. For her efforts, in the early 2000s, she received Mental Health’s America’s coveted Clifford W Beers Award.

In 2008, I opted to start leading a more balanced life. This involved cutting down on both my hours and traveling. Angela and I stayed in touch. She kept greeting me as her favorite dance partner. Inevitably, though, our lives started to diverge. Somewhere around 2011, we dropped off each other’s radar.

About two years ago, she let me know via Facebook that she had moved to The Villages in FL. Same place my sister lives. Now, here I was, at my sister’s place. Guess who I had to see?

She had changed, I had changed. But with special people, it’s as if nothing had changed. Reconnection is but a technicality. The connection was always there …

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