Michael Wallace Foundation for Mental Wellness

20 Years…

I half expected him to come walking down the street dressed as a clown like nothing ever happened.  Maybe ‘22’ years?

20 years ago on this day, Michael stepped out his front door and seemingly vanished. He took nothing with him. He left both of his vehicles, took no extra money, and did not use his phone. Where he is, and what happened to him, is anyone’s guess.

We had a lot of long conversations that week. He was struggling, and he wanted to come home. To be around people who ‘get it’.  He just wanted to understand what he was feeling and to know how to fix it. That’s just how his brilliant mind worked. He had a hard time understanding some people. He felt like his depression was a burden and kept apologizing because he thought we had all been through too much. It’s hard to reassure someone who can’t get out of their own head.

A lot of people automatically assume that Michael took his own life.  And that could be.  For years, we sent out dental records and other information to compare to unidentified remains. Having to imagine your brother in each of these instances is traumatizing but it had to be done. NaMus was established in 2007 and Michael’s information, and our family’s DNA, has been in the database since.  However, thousands unidentified bodies are added every year. So, of course, it remains a possibility.

Michael talked about disappearing.  He asked me what I’d do if I called and he didn’t answer. He talked about assuming a new identity. I think he saw it as a way to save himself, from himself. He also studied Buddhism. Dharma itself means “protection”. This practice teaches you to protect yourself from the struggles of daily life. To guard your personal well being from external pressures. To find peace and enlightenment.

I don’t think for a moment that Michael saw his family as pressure, or that he wanted to stay away. There is no doubt in my mind that he loves us all fiercely.  If he is in a monastery somewhere, doing what he needs to do to survive, I’m all good with it. It’s just very difficult for me to rationalize him being out there somewhere and not calling our mother.

I don’t think any of us would be surprised either way.

I will say it’s a very strange mix of emotions this leaves you with. It’s not like grief, where you know there is work to be done, and you do it. But, there is grief.  I haven’t seen my brother in 20 years. I miss him terribly.  I miss our long talks for hours about nonsense. I miss his intelligence. I miss his eccentricities and his sparkle for life. You don’t find that in many people.  I grieve for my brother, Gary, who I know misses Mikey just like I do.  I grieve for my mother who has had more than her fair share of heartache yet still lights up the lives of everybody around her. I grieve for Michael who, for some reason, thought whatever choice he made was better than finding his way home to his tribe.  There are no answers… but there is still grief. It just…. lingers.

So, 20 years later, we are well aware that he could be gone.  But until we know differently, we will continue the search. We hope, more than anything, that Mikey will come home to us some day.

In the meantime, we choose how we move forward. We will continue to pour our energy into making sure people who struggle with their mental health in any way understand they are not alone.  We will use Michael’s journey to end the stigma. We will have the difficult conversations. We will make sure our young people understand there is ALWAYS hope.

And if you’re reading this, and thinking about Michael, we hope you do the same.

 

Perspective, 21 Years

Perspective, 21 Years

21 years ago on this morning, Michael walked out of his home in Menlo Park, California. For 21 years, we have searched, struggled, grieved, and have...