Introduction to Memoirs of a Healer/Clinical Social Worker – Autobiography of Bruce Whealton

Someone Saved My Life

Dear reader: This book is a true story of the life I have known. I am writing to you to share this story in the hopes that we can make sense of things. I will share with you this story on the web, and you will have a way to respond to the questions that will arise. 

I do have a favor to ask you though as we discuss these events. Please, be very specific. I will do the same for you. What I mean is that I won’t use platitudes about how “there is hope” or “things will work out.”  I am going to tell you about some very specific experiences that I have had, and I am going to speak with brutal honesty. I am going to be detailed and explicit – meaning, I must apologize if you are someone who thinks in terms of certain abstract ideas.     

Something amazing happened to make it possible for me to bring this story to you. It was Monday, December 16, 2019, and someone saved my life tonight. So, if I sounded bitter in the previous paragraph, I apologize. Let me tell you how someone saved my life. Then we will see how that relates to love, kindness, nurturance, compassion, and empathy.

I was in the hospital at the University of North Carolina Medical Center in the psychiatric unit. I had meant to end my life a few days ago. My ex-wife found out because I told her thinking that it would be too late when she got the message.

On this Monday morning just after midnight, I was absolutely convinced that nothing can be done to change my circumstances and that there is no hope. I knew that I would be released soon and then I won’t fail in my next suicide attempt. Visions of a slip noose swings in my mind along with other ideas – pills.

I can’t sleep. I’m restless… sitting in a large, darkened room just past midnight – a common room. The hospital is quiet. 

My ex-wife had been angry that I considered suicide but she understood why I had been that desperately depressed. Yes, I have been through hell but that was in the past. This is not about past pain. That doesn’t matter. No one can help remedy the situation because no one understands. 

This is what was going through my mind when this girl comes out. 

“You can’t sleep either?” she asks and takes a seat next to me to talk. A simple question that started a process that made this book possible!

This is interesting… because for some reason, I am thinking that I should tell her my story. I have no idea where that idea arose. I am listening to her. I remember her name is Kirra. No, I’m not going to tell you her last name or why she was there. Confidentiality is important. 

She seemed at the time to be drawing a story out of me. I felt compassion and empathy for her situation as well. There is something about the problems she has been facing that reminds me of someone who was very special in my life in the past. I can’t say what that is because it would reveal something about her that should not be made public with this book.    

I felt an overwhelming need to tell her how I had been harmed in the past. I told her how I had been victimized by a woman who brutally attacked me and then lied and said that I attacked her!  And if that lie was not bad enough, she said I tried to undress her which meant that I was charged with a sexual offense! 

I explained how I would NEVER do anything to hurt someone. I was a therapist who understood how traumatic events affect people. And in fact, dear reader, you will see this when I show it to you throughout this book. 

She said, “I believe you, one hundred percent.” She had demonstrated understanding of what I had been feeling – empathy.

My first reaction was a thought that floated through my mind, “of course you do…  what person who has spent any time at all with me would think I would harm a person.”  That is what I was thinking.    

I had held the weight of this pain for more than a decade and a half. I held it almost all alone. I asked questions about how it is that we come to know these things about a person. Indeed, there are subtle cues or clues that we pick up that tell us about danger. She used the word “vibes.” 

She seemed like she wanted to help me and to be my friend. She was much younger than me, so I wasn’t thinking in romantic terms about this friendship. She just said she wanted me to join her and sit with her at breakfast in the morning and at other meals. Love takes many forms.

She also understood why the events from the past did have a tremendous impact on my life in the present. I had described my passion for helping others and working as a therapist… and working in the mental health/psychiatric field. 

I wondered why this wasn’t so clear to everyone. 

My plans to end my life suddenly evaporated. I had hungered for this as truly as we can be starving for food or air!

I came alive. So much more was offered to the patients on the unit during the week. I had arrived on Friday night and there were not many therapy groups over the weekend. I started connecting with others during therapy groups, at meals, and as we, the patients, socialized.

 It was a transformative experience. The world had seemed like a very dark and cold place devoid of human compassion, but I was observing how caring people here were. I’m talking about the other patients that I was meeting. 

A couple of days later, we were asked to pick a feeling word to describe how we feel or what we were experiencing. For some reason, I chose to use words like “outsider,” “alone,” “unnoticed,” and “invisible.”

The response from the group caused my jaw to drop. I was told that I was actually like a “social butterfly.”  That I had been at the center of all the action. Another person said I persuaded and encouraged him to come to the group. 

Indeed, this was a transformative experience. I had been noticing others and listening to them. I had encouraged someone to come to the “group” because I was concerned and also, I felt that it works better if we can be there together for each other.

There was one other important and memorable event. Some of us were watching Law & Order: SVU. There was an episode that portrayed a teacher who loved teaching children who were falsely accused of sexually molesting one or more children. The visceral pain of this was exquisite. As someone who worked as a clinical social worker, I could recognize that pain from the way it was portrayed to the way we think about having that happen to us or another person.

I wanted to tell some others the experience I had and how I had been harmed by a lie of this nature. I approached two people who stepped out during a commercial break and I said I wanted to share something with them.

I explained how I had been falsely accused and falsely convicted. By that time, they knew that I had worked as a therapist. They knew how much I loved that kind of work or those kinds of activities and experiences.

Beginning with Kirra and then with others I was telling my story and finding the support that I had needed for so long. I had tried to carry this burden all alone and now I was finding opportunities to unburden myself of this exquisite pain. They and others in the hospital, patients, and staff showed love, compassion, and empathy which is precisely what motivated me to go into psychiatric social work.

So, many people would tell me that the terrible events were in the past and that I shouldn’t let it bother me now. I shouldn’t dwell on the past.

Excuse my language dear reader, but that is such bullshit! The lies of that woman who attacked me in 2004 – the false accusations, the false conviction – affect every aspect of my life in the here and now. Those lies are etched into stone metaphorically speaking. Before we talk more about love and empathy let me add a few points. Bear with me just a moment.

The pernicious lie suggests that people should worry about did or might do in the future. It’s on a North Carolina Public Safety website. This is the modern equivalent of something being etched in stone.

The criminal record presents me as the perpetrator of the crime, but it has no basis in reality. I had been the victim! It’s still out there and I had been told by a law firm that there was no hope for me that I would ever get justice… When I heard that cold statement from a lawyer that no one could do anything, I didn’t hear the full story. I just heard no one can do anything – there was no hope!

You may disagree strongly with my choice to try to end my life in 2019 but ironically that was the only way that I was able to have this transformative experience. The world had seemed to be dark, cold, and devoid of caring people… devoid of compassion and empathy. The empathy, love, compassion, I developed over a lifetime would not be available to anyone were it not for what started with “a story.”

So, that’s what I am giving to you as a gift – a story.

Over the next year I continued to write “my story” and this is what you are reading now. I hope you understand, dear reader, why abstract ideas and platitudes are not every helpful to me. When I hear “things are going to be okay” said to me without first acknowledging the pain and without pragmatic statements about how things are going to be okay, I just think you are not offering empathy and compassion. 

In my life experience, I have learned how to specifically figure out what a person needs or desires. I have learned to understand how that changes from moment to moment. I have learned how to recognize needs, things that we hunger for and desires almost instantly.

This is how I act from a place of love!

As a psychotherapist, I have developed certain instincts that are almost like common sense for me now. I would NEVER imagine telling a client or a patient what I think is good or a good life. I learned about active listening.

I know for a while there it seemed like I was angry but that’s not the full story! We haven’t gotten to love if we stop at anger and that’s all you see or hear.

Human beings are imperfect and the systems we create are imperfect. So, it’s not good enough to just go home and say we didn’t break any rules. The bigger issues begin with a question like did we act with love? Did you consider that you could be wrong? Did you consider how that might affect another person?

I would argue that love can be a quality that is the foundation of all societies and all people everywhere in one form or another. A psychotherapist or psychologist might use the word unconditional positive regard.

Certain social workers will speak of social justice because we recognize what happens to people and how they feel, how they experience life when it is lacking. That’s empathy.

True empathy, true love, and true compassion reject ideas like “nothing can be done” or “that’s just the way it is.” That’s injustice.

Love comes in many forms though. A mother and father’s love are demonstrated in the way they nurture a child. I know I didn’t have that growing up. So, I hungered for it. You will hear about some special people in my life. A special friend, a girlfriend, a fiancée, a wife. Sadly, there was some tragedy in my life so you will hear about a second wife.

When I was immature, I thought I wanted a strong protector. The seed of change in that regard was planted in my mind first by a grandmother that was very week and an elderly grandfather. Their strong love and concern for me showed me there was more than strength that matters – at least more than physical strength.

You’ll hear about my first special love with a young woman named Celta who cuddled with me, nurtured me, comforted me – loved me. We were drawn together by the love language of physical contact and spending time together. By physical contact, I am not necessarily speaking of sensual contact.

In my twenties and thirties, the love of my life, Lynn Denise Krupey, like me, recognized that we felt love through physical contact and spending time together.

There are many ways forms of love but those needs, desires or what I hunger for, may have influenced my choices when it came to romantic or certain forms of emotional love that we feel with someone of the opposite sex.

Obviously, I played other roles in life. I was a Clinical Social Worker, a psychotherapist. I didn’t cuddle with my clients. However, I did recognize the strivings and desires of people – the motivating forces. I recognized desires and needs that change from moment to moment. As a social worker, if someone is hungry for food, you try to get them food. You get the idea.

You will notice a theme in this book related to my exquisite awareness of the needs, desires, feelings, and emotions of others. These are things that can change very rapidly. Believe me, I have seen people’s emotions change in fractions of a second. I had those capacities firmly in place when the bad things to which I alluded to above occurred. Someone like me would not be the cause of harm to another because I would know what another person is experiencing.

I will show you how I instinctually react to the needs and desires of others instantly.

As a way to help you get a sense of the many experiences of love, we can start with an example. There are many forms of love. However, if I tell you I’m going to tell you a love story, you get an idea as to what I mean. Maybe you are already feeling a sense of anticipation. Yes, love stories feel good. So, let’s start there.

A Love Story

I was once so paralyzed by shyness that I honestly never believed I would EVER find anyone to love. Luckily, I was wrong – I fell madly and passionately in love.  

July 4, 1992. Nearly three months since I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina.  

I was with Lynn.  

There is a jetty that runs out to a tiny island south of Carolina Beach where the Cape Fear River meets the ocean. It is the farthest point south if you drive down Highway 421/Carolina Beach Road from Wilmington, North Carolina.

It was our first date. Sort of. If you can call it that way. I never had any dating experience, mind you. And I reckon Lynn never had a great deal of experience either. Since I was driving, I asked if she wanted to go to this scenic spot. She agreed.

So, I parked the car near the beach there near that jetty.

We were talking about how during low tide the jetty acts as a bridge over to a tiny island that is like a mini-animal conservation area. The water gently washes against and over the rocks but if the tide is low, like today, we could walk out to the island.

The jetty is not on the open ocean, so the waves only gently lap against the beach and the rocks that form the jetty. It is just a bunch of rocks that have been stacked against one another to make a bridge of sorts. The pavement that layered the stack of rocks made the bridge more accessible.

A photo of one such jetty/bridge is shown below.

I had just moved to Wilmington in April and I wanted to get to know the people there. So, I started attending poetry reading sessions. They were held at the lounge on the fourth floor of the convention center which overlooks Cape Fear River.

There was something serene about the setting that made it comfortable for me to get up in front of a group of people and read my poetry. The sun would reflect across the Cape Fear River casting the soft rays into the room. Dusty, the emcee for the poetry reading sessions who works at the center, made it easier too. She has that magical quality of attending to the guests of the Convention Center whether they were there for the poetry or not. Her caring ways equivalent to that of a loving mother always make us feel welcomed and comfortable.

Sharing my poetry in front of a group was an impossible accomplishment. As a psychotherapist, I would have to lead therapy groups so being able to read my poetry to a group was perfect evidence of my ability to accomplish something that had seemed impossible. My ability to get up in front of a room of people every week was an amazing feat. This was something I never had the guts to do when I was younger. I never wanted to place myself at the center of attention.

I would see Lynn every Sunday at the poetry readings at the Coastline Convention Center. For me, she stood out among all the attendees that were present there. She was thin but shapely.

Cystic Fibrosis – a genetic disease. I overheard her talking about that. That was why she was coughing all the time.

I had come sharing poems about Celta, someone I had loved, and lost. I wasn’t expecting to make a romantic connection. Something about Lynn caught my attention.

What was it about her? Did I already think that she was the most beautiful girl imaginable? Do I dare admit to myself that I am entertaining such irrational thoughts? I never thought of it as some kind of love-at-first-sight but there was something about her that intrigued me. Of all the people I held in high regard, Lynn was that one person that seemed to challenge that perspective.

Her voice was hypnotic and alluring. She had all the things that one considers in feminine beauty and shape or so it seemed to me early on. She seemed perfect. I loved her voice – both when she was at the microphone and when I was close to her. And her face, her skin, her legs seemed like gentle features I might have created in my own mind if I had the imagination to do such a thing.

Yet, I noticed she was alone. I guess that was one of the reasons why I was so lucky.

It took me some three months to find the courage and the right words to ask her out. I waited to see if she already had someone else. I wanted to avoid being rejected. I can still feel the fear now as I write this some twenty-eight years later. I guess that was a sign of how much I wanted this to work out. It was scary.

Asking Lynn if she would spend time with me was an accomplishment.

So, here we were, at this gentle beach on July 4th.

I did not expect the pavement to be this slippery. It was a cause of concern for me but not because I was afraid of falling. It was imperative that I must not let her slip and risk bruising or scratching her perfect skin. Putting my nervousness aside, I offered my hand.

She took my hand.

She took my hand!


You must be thinking that I am exaggerating but this was amazing! Her gentle hand around mine!

“Do you want to keep going?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, pausing to take in the scene with me. Her straight blonde hair swayed in the gentle wind.

We walked a little further but then decided that this was getting too slippery. And dangerous.

What’s next, I thought. Jean works at Fort Fischer, a Civil War museum site, and they have a tour around the historic site. We could go there.

It was an amazing day. The first of an amazing weekend that we would spend together.

We saw the fireworks in downtown Wilmington that night, over the Cape Fear River and near the Battleship. My friends regarded me as a pacifist. I suppose Lynn was too.

After the fireworks, we were walking back to the car, passing by the place where she worked along the way. Some co-worker asked her if I was her boyfriend. “No, we are just friends,” she said.

Darn. I thought this was a date. Nevertheless, we were still just friends.

I can wait.

It was the 4th of July 1992, and everything would change from this day forward.

Time has a way of changing fates. We became more than just friends. Over time, we fell madly and passionately in love. Two years after this day in July of 1992, we were picking out an engagement ring for her.

Oh, and I was in graduate school in Social Work. Everything was falling into place. It was perfect.

More than that, I felt things I never knew I would or could feel. It is impossible to comprehend what I felt that day when she first held my hand.

The world was full of hope for me. Anything seemed possible. I had clear ideas about what I wanted and where I was going. So, while it might seem that this was just about my social life and making friends, it was also a vision of life for me in some sense of the bigger picture of what really matters to me.

We would get a home together north of Wilmington on Brucemont Drive. Her mother bought the home and we rented it from her.

I became successful in social work. I became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker – a psychotherapist. I opened my own private practice. I gained respect from my colleagues who told me that Wilmington was a saturated market, meaning there was no need for an additional therapist in the area. The person who warned me that Wilmington was a saturated market and that an additional therapist is not needed had the best of intentions, but it was so great to know that despite all the challenges I found success.

I saw a life with Lynn Denise Krupey. I proved to myself that I could accomplish my dreams. It was all built around me and my family. I dedicated my life to helping others to get back on their feet. I had everything I wanted. I certainly had no intention of changing anything at all. I could not imagine anything different or anything better than this other than more of the same.

Halfway through 2000, a meteor would come crashing down on this life I had tirelessly built upon. The shocking events that began to transpire that year would incinerate everything in my world leaving ashes to blot out the sky. I saw only darkness, the fog of ashes blowing fragments of the familiar home, the furnishings, the words, and dreams.

I was in desperate need of compassion, empathy, kindness, and love but I wasn’t thinking too clearly about where to look for these things and where to find them.

I still believed my so-called family had a capacity for providing what I was needing. I wasn’t thinking clearly. To understand why I should NOT have turned to my parents or siblings, we need to consider what life was like growing up.

About Admin

Bruce Whealton Posted on

I am a writer and mental health professional. I have a master's degree in social work (MSW). I built a successful private practice as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the 90s. This website features an account of that journey along with additional commentary, news, and information on my life story. It is nothing short of amazing that I was able to make all these accomplishments and find so much success because I had to deal with abuse and shyness growing up and into adulthood. I was paralyzed with shyness. Therefore, if this story of my life is not a success story or a story about accomplishments, I don't know what is. I have plenty of love stories to tell here in my many memoirs.

Writing your own life story can be therapeutic. I know it has been for me. It allowed me to see myself in a new way. I had grown up in an abusive home and I had forgotten enough of that to reach out to my family of origin for emotional support when I desperately needed it in 2000. I assumed that they would show a minimal capacity for empathy. Even when I was a victim of brutal violence by outsiders, malicious people, when I cried out for emotional support, they still could not be moved at all! They left me to rot in a jail cell even when I was brutally victimized and falsely accused of being the attacker - the perpetrator. Covered in blood with my attacker not having a scratch on her, I was interrogated like I was the one who did something wrong. My so-called family knew I was innocent but did nothing!

I spent over 20 years poisoning my mind with the negative narrative that my own parents and siblings embraced. Not only were they not emotionally supportive but they were emotionally and psychologically abusive. It was nothing short of poisoning my own mind and believing that there was something wrong with myself. Nothing I ever did was good enough for them. I believe that as an adult I was a victim of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy even though I wasn't living with that family. It was a torture that I experienced over many years - just subtle enough not to be easily noticed.

This is an account of my life.

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