I met my guardian angel on a train from New York City to Baltimore, a train I had to sneak onto because of an Amtrak strike.
With people standing in the bathroom, in the café car, and in the aisles, I searched for some open space. A woman in her 50s with platinum hair and a gentle face moved her bags from the seat next to her and said to me, “You can sit here.”
It was the first chance to think about my manic day: throwing 25 book ideas at my agent, telling inappropriate jokes to a colleague, and scribbling furious notes about random thoughts. Suddenly, a gorgeous woman seated in front of me got up to leave. She didn’t look a day older than 25, so when I heard her mention her adult children living in New York, I said to my train partner, “Genes. Some people get all the good ones.”
“Ha,” she replied, “And I got mental illness.”
“Me too,” I said.
“I’m manic depressive,” she said.
“Me too,” I responded.
We spent the entire three hours taking about diagnoses, medications, psychiatrists, and therapists. I told her that although I had been recently diagnosed as bipolar I didn’t like the idea of taking a mood stabilizer.
It turned out Angel Ann was the first sane, articulate bipolar person I’d met. But I forgot to get her number.
Life is mysterious, though, because don’t you know that in my rush to get off the train, I left my cell phone on my seat. When I realized I had lost it, I used our home phone to dial its number. My angel answered, and she gave me her phone number.
As my depression worsened, I carried her number in my pocket everywhere I went. Sometimes I phoned her daily to hear a nugget of wisdom. “It won’t always be like this,” she said, and I believed her because, unlike other friends, she had been there. A woman of strength and determination, she stuck her tongue out at her diagnosis, and went on living her life. I wanted to be like that. Like my angel. I still do.