“We all prisoners, chicky baby. We all locked in.”

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2012 Nancy Virden

photo-24775881-open-hands-with-keyThe title of today’s blog is an old movie line from 1968. Do you remember Herbie? The original intuitive car had a personality of its own (don’t they all?), and was the leading character in The Love Bug.

Do you recall who spoke this profound sentence? Before I reveal that answer,  let me tell you about my friend’s recent adventure.

Vicky (not her real name) is a retired RPN with many years experience taking care of young and old. Her specialty however, was pediatrics. Yet even she has trouble finding work as a full-time nanny. settling instead for low-paying babysitting jobs.

At present she has a regular part-time position watching a curious two year-old girl.  Last month, the little one wanted to explore the basement in her old, Philadelphia area home.  Vicky grasped her tiny hand, and they stepped down the creaky stairs. The tour was simple until the tot spotted a door in one wall. She wanted to go in.

Vicky promptly opened what appeared to be an original closet. The door’s latch went unnoticed as the would-be explorer and her partner first peered inside, and then entered.


Before she turned for proof, Vicky knew what had happened.  For over an hour she tried to entertain the antsy child who wanted out of the dark.  A small window thankfully allowed for a brief cell-phone connection, and they waited until a friend of the little girl’s mother came to the rescue.

A woman Vicky did not know opened the door. Vicky was understandably embarrassed and apologized for the inconvenience. 

However, their liberator was enthusiastic.  “Will you watch my little girl?”

Ha! If only all the underemployed in this nation could find work by making a mistake! Everyone would have a job.

Most of us spend our lives trying not to look foolish. This keeps us behind locked doors, and sometimes in the dark. It holds us back from truly investing in anyone else.

Uncertainty, insecurity, and distrust held me in emotional shadows, while it is I who had the key. It isn’t a rescue I needed, it was instruction how to use what was already mine.

Since stepping out into the light and slowly learning to share the real me, I’ve been approached multiple times by people  who want to tell someone of their own struggles. It’s good they have found an understanding soul. It’s a shame that in many cases it has to be a stranger to whom they turn.

Where are the supports for the hurting? Are we all hiding?

In The Love Bug, Herbie has taken over control of his door locks. Its driver and a female passenger are a meant-to-be romance. Of course, only the car recognizes this, so it locks them in together. As the young woman tugs and pulls at the handle in an effort to leave, she hollers for help from a nearby hippie.

He peers out the window of his van and shakes his head. “We all prisoners, chicky baby. We all locked in.”

He was right.


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.


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