Last summer, while hiking with my sister and our three dogs, we stumbled into a nest of yellow jackets. They swarmed us, covering our bodies, stinging repeatedly as we hollered and fled down the mountain.
Safely back at the car, we shook the rest of them out of our pant legs. We loaded up on Benadryl. Everyone else seemed okay, but I felt like someone was stepping on my lungs. My mood dropped precipitously. I reassured my sister I was okay. I drove a few miles to our mom’s house.
My mom was getting ready to leave as I arrived. I lay down on the couch. “I’m fine,” I said. “I just need to lie down for a little while. You don’t need to stay.” I closed my eyes and waited. I felt like I might be dying but told myself that was ridiculous. Hadn’t I been stung often as a kid? I could handle this. I shouldn’t make anyone worry.
Meg Hutchinson is a singer/songwriter and a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau. Bring Meg to your campus to speak about mental health.
When I was 9 years old my parents gave me a pink Walkman for Christmas and a cassette tape of Richard and Mimi Farina. There was a song on that tape called “Pack Up Your Sorrows.”
“But if somehow you could pack up your sorrows and give them all to me/You would lose them, I know how to use them/Give them all to me”
I piled into the car with my two sisters and our parents drove us to Darien, CT to our grandparent’s house for the holiday weekend.
When we arrived we began to notice the grownups whispering about something and looking anxiously at the neighbor’s house. That evening I finally asked my mom what they were all talking about. My mom said that the neighbor had died by suicide that week. I had never heard of suicide. It had never occurred to me that that could ever happen.
For the rest of that weekend I listened to that song over and over and stared out the window at the neighbor’s house. I wished that I could have taken her sadness away. Listening to the song made me feel comforted. I decided that I wanted to be a singer when I grew up.
That’s exactly what I became. What I didn’t know, however, was that I would also grow up to have bipolar disorder. What I didn’t know is that I would struggle privately for nine years before having a breakdown and finally being properly diagnosed. What I didn’t know is that 28 years after that weekend in CT I would release a film about my journey and call it “Pack Up Your Sorrows.”