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
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
Portland Oregonian, by Michelle Roberts. This was followed up by
appearances at local events including NAMI Walks NW and an article "
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
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
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
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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