Faith is important to me., My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

I hugged a stranger in a bar…

This is almost an oxymoron for me – the words “in a bar,” not that I hugged a stranger. Let me explain.

My body doesn’t handle alcohol well. It causes migraine headaches and so I made the decision years ago to drink water, coffee, milk, and an occasional orange juice. So for me to sit and sip with friends in a bar is an unusual event for me. For the record, I sat with fellow writers in the bar/grill at the Renaissance Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois at the Catholic Writers Guild LIVE conference.  After a day filled with new friends, learning, and sharing our faith, we gathered to share food and stories.

Because of the size of the convention center, there were other groups sharing the beautiful facility. By 9 o’clock, the bar appeared to be the destination spot for a large sampling of the various organizations that held their meetings here.

Because I’m an early riser, I knew my day needed to end. I sang “Good Night, Ladies” to the women at my table and squeezed my way through the crowd. I had almost made it to the exit when I bumped into a young woman who grinned at me. “Are you looking for a drink?” she asked.

“No, I’m looking for my room.”

She laughed and the conversation began. I inquired which group she represented. She mentioned the business, and I countered with “I’m with the writers conference.” She wanted to know what I write and of course I brought up my favorite topic – mental illness. And the bump into a stranger morphed into a connection that illustrates a sobering statistic  – one in four families deal with mental illness.

Within minutes I knew about the death of a neighbor/friend to suicide after a battle with depression. We shared grief, hope, and the cultural reaction to it. I understood the pain for I’ve experienced the loss of someone I love who suffered the same illness.

“I want to buy your book,” she mentioned. I happened to have a copy of my book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith in my tote bag because a fellow writer asked me to bring her a copy. We hadn’t connected yet so she could purchase it. I told the young woman and she whipped out her wallet. I signed the copy as we stood in the crowd. I finally knew her name as I wrote it in the book.

We hugged and parted with a promise to reconnect via e-mail.

This is not an isolated incident. It doesn’t matter where I am, who I’m with, or the circumstances of our encounter, I meet companions on this journey.  At least twenty-five percent of people I meet have dealt, or are currently in a situation that involves mental illness. I meet people in church, at parties, while I shop, and now in a bar. I smile as I think about it. I want to be a disciple of Jesus, to take His love to all those I meet. I just didn’t think it would be in a bar and I smile at the irony. God must have a sense of humor.

And so I continue to open the door to meaningful conversations with everyone I meet. I want to share our common human experience, support others in their struggles, pray for them and their loved one. I want to bring awareness to the epidemic of mental illness, donate to the research we need to understand it more and change the culture of stigma that surrounds it. I want everyone to live in hope, that recovery is possible and that maybe one day it will happen for everyone’s loved one. We’re all in this together.






Virginia's Reviews

Book Review: I Liked My Life

I read this book in a little over a day, but I’m afraid I won’t finish it for a long time. It left me feeling grumpy. Yes, grumpy. And I will spend a good chunk of my brain power in thought. As I read the book, I felt like I stared into a mirror. And that made me grumpy. What about it left me unsettled? Did some of the personalities strike too close to home? The answer – yes – and then, what’s next? Is it too late to make a change? Is it even possible at this time in my life?

Abby captured personalities, real life situations and scenarios. I didn’t know what to expect when I won a copy of this book during a Facebook promotion. A woman, successful and devoted to her family, dies. After an investigation, her death is recorded as a suicide. But – she didn’t leave a note with an explanation. Now, her husband and daughter are left to wonder why and examine their life in detail. Was their behavior a factor? Why did she do it?

I Liked My Life, by Abby Fabiaschi, exams the family left behind, but also gives insight into the situation from the deceased as she watches from above. It was a novel approach to a nationwide epidemic. As the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., it affects families daily. I’ve experienced the grief of the survivors as I stood at the grave of four people who lost the battle against mental illness in the past few years. There is no comfort for the families left behind.

I’m glad I read it, but I have to admit, I was also glad to finish it. It kept me turning the page in spite of the pain that registered deep as the story progressed.

I won’t reveal the character who reminded me of me. I think that is up to each reader to determine and I don’t want to influence them. But I’m guessing most readers can identify with one of them. I didn’t want to face some of the truths revealed to me in this story of a once happy and contented family. Tragedy rocketed them into a new reality, as happens in most families.

It’s been a while since a novel made me exam my life in detail as this one did. I know this bad case of  “the grumpies” won’t last for me. I will take my new awareness, exam it, make a plan of action, implement it, and move on. I hope I become a better version of me as a result of reading, I Liked My Life.


Guest Blogs, My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars


May 8, 2017

I  read a story this morning that left me saddened for situations that I know are all too common. A young woman with promise and it sounds like a big heart lost her battle. Here’s her mother’s post. Let’s stop the stigma.

With the author’s permission to spotlight her blog today, I give you the first paragraph, but click on the link to read one mother’s story.  Please.

pickingupthepieces63 ©pickingupthepieces

Her Mission is our Hope©

This is my beautiful daughter. Born 4-17-86 died 3-10-15. Her death certificate says she died by a gun shot wound. That’s only part of the truth. That doesn’t explain the real cause which is Mental Illness, more specific Depression and Bipolar disorder.  ©pickingupthepieces63



My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

It’s okay to cry…

I read two timely blogs this morning – both dealing with suicide. I’ve experienced too many heartbreaking situations with families whose loved one chose to leave our world. The pain is intense, the grief is unrelenting. I must react with love and compassion. For I feel it’s my only option – even if I’m hurting, too. I especially liked this thought, “It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to cry at Christmas dinner.” Let’s give each other permission to grieve in our own way.

From the website: The Mighty.

20 Messages for Suicide Loss Survivors During the Holidays

Another perspective by the author Ellen Gable:

#Christmas in the Aftermath of Suicide

There are many books out there to assist us as we travel this path. I’m part of a project, entitled Grief Diaries. Here’s the link for the recently published book compiled by survivors of suicide.

Grief Diaries: Loss by Suicide

My heart feels heavy for those whose grief is raw this season.

To you,  I say I love you and grieve with you.


ABOUT, Author In Training, My thoughts about Mental Health, Virginia Pillars

Why a Pen Name?

May 2016

A pen name? Why?

I wrote a book which details my personal journey through mental illness with my child. She became ill with schizophrenia in late 2004. Uneducated and unprepared I found myself struggling to understand our situation.

First, I am not ashamed of my story, nor my experience with mental illness. I am more than proud of my child, who’s overcome the nasty symptoms mental illness unleashed.

However, this story is about me, and my reactions to the chaos that accompanied our journey through mental illness. In telling my story, I needed to discuss other family members and their place in our story. They didn’t ask to be part of this journey through mental illness, nor did our affected child. Or me, for that matter. In addition, this time in their life evokes many painful memories. Therefore, they wish to leave those recollections in the past. A place where they’ve been dealt with and resolved. Continued discussions about those times may only open them to additional grief. In order to keep their identities private, I used a pen name and changed all our names and locations.

In concealing our identity, my hope is that you’ll concentrate on my story, what unfolded, and how I dealt with all the issues that accompany mental illness. I think I have some of the most supportive, loving and caring family, as well as friends. Therefore I would like to leave them in the world where they live, separate from the eyes of any publicity that may accompany this book.

And I’m grateful for your understanding. Broken Brain, Fortified Faith releases on September 6, 2016. It is available Amazon, Barnes and Noble, direct from the publisher Familius, or from any bookstore.

Thank you for stopping.

Virginia Pillars