Tracy M
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Schizophrenic Tries Out
For American Idol

 

One of the most confounding aspects of mental illness is who it chooses to strike and why.  For every indicator of high probability of the diseases that makes it more likely that a person will get a disease, there is an exception to that indicator.  In that manner, mental illness and particularly schizophrenia is an equal-opportunity offender.  What makes the disease a particularly tragic illness is that often paired with psychotic episodes is a brilliant talent of some type.  In the movie "Beautiful Mind" John Nash is clearly psychotic in his delusions and hearing voices.  At the same time Dr. Nash is a brilliant mathematician who can espouse a Nobel prize winning economic theory.

Tracy shares the brilliance and tarnish of her disease with many others who also suffer from schizophrenia.  On one hand, there is the early arrival of a nearly photographic memory and unusual command of language but at the same time a delusion of governmental thought control and hearing voices appear out of inanimate objects. 

Her desire like many other children was to sing.  The desire was so strong she desired to go to a private performing arts college in Minnesota to polish her craft.  She was accepted as a vocal major and was starting her third semester out of a four semester program when the delusions were simply too much for her to handle.

Returning home to find a place of healing, she watched American Idol and thought that "she could do that!"  While recovering from her psychotic episode she became determined to go to tryouts and give it her all.  Braving the long drive to Pasadena with a friend, she camped out in the Rose Bowl for four days for a chance to give the auditions her best shot.  You can watch the results of that trip here.

 

America understands that many who try out are auditioned because they are awful.  The show uses many contestants as punching bags to absorb their perverse sense of humor.  If you can imagine facing Simon with the prospect that he will ridicule and berate your performance after you have been held in a hospital and been under psychiatric care is probably more than most people would ever dare face.  Undaunted, Tracy chose to face the music and be judged. 

The result was stunning given her circumstances and her health.  The day that she auditioned for the celebrity judges, Paula Abdul was not there.  If she had been, maybe the outcome might have been different and she would have won the prized selection to go to Hollywood.  Simon Cowell said not quite good enough and Randy said after some hesitation, that he would pass, just like the ten people who auditioned before her in that round.  Others that day were not so lucky.  Ridiculed and berated, some broke down crying.  Tracy left with her head held high, judged by America's toughest critic that she could sing well but "not quite good enough" to make the program.

True to her brave nature, Tracy chose to be public about her disease and fight the stigma surrounding Mental Illness.  Since the American Idol experience, she was written about in The Portland Oregonian, by Michelle Roberts.  This was followed up by appearances at local events including NAMI Walks NW and an article " Tracy Moore is our American Idol,"  Schizophrenia Digest, May 2006 Issue. 

Subsequent to those events, Tracy graced a calendar with Patty Duke, Jane Pauley and Carrie Fischer who have come forth about their own experiences with mental illness.

NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, chose Tracy's story to highlight their National Walk Event in their 2007 Promotional Video and her song "I am not Alone" as the trailer to the video.

 

Since that time, Tracy has sung at local events including the National Anthem at a Professional Lacrosse Game in front of over 7000 people and been invited to speak at the University of Pittsburgh National Schizophrenia Conference and to sing at a Gala for the National Schizophrenia Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Her latest appearance was singing the National Anthem at NAMI Walks NW in Portland , OR.

John Holmes, Executive director of NAMI Multnomah County wrote about her performance. "I saw and heard someone having a lot of fun doing something she loves to do.  Seeing and hearing her do her thing brought tears to my eyes.  As Iím getting a bit older and seeing my second son grow up fast, Iím appreciating more and more the pride all fathers feel for their kids no matter the circumstances.  Although she has struggled a bit with mental illness, Tracy is truly special and has loads of talent.  I can only imagine how proud you feel. 

What John said made me really think how we as parents are sometimes least able to see through our pain and step back an appreciate the simple beauty of someone just doing what they love to do.  We criticize the details of their performance, and see how they could have done better.  We agonize over what could have been instead of celebrate what is.  Like the flower that has a minute flaw, we sometimes cannot see the beauty by looking past the flaw.

Tracy speaks with Joey Pantoliano, 2003 Emmy Award winner about her experiences with her disorder.  Joey is president of No Kidding, Me Too!, an organization helping to break the stigma surrounding mental illness.

 

 
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Last modified: 06/02/08