About Tracey

Tracey Yokas creates stuff. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing with paint, glitter, and glue. Art fuels her passion for connection. Tracey lives in Southern California with her family, and aspires to share her truth so others will know they are not alone. Each time she takes a risk and shines a light on her family’s struggle with mental illness, stigma and ignorance lessen. Tracey holds a BS in Communications from Ohio University and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from California Lutheran University. 

Tracey has contributed articles to iPinion Syndicate (here), and had essays selected to appear in two anthologies: Belly Shame: Stories from the Gut edited by Debra LoGuercio DeAngelo and The Walls Between Us: essays in search of truth edited by Beth Kephart.


"We're all just walking each other home."

–Ram Dass

Notes on Gratitude

The last first day of high school

The last first day of high school

Another first last

Today is the first day of my girl's senior year. Like most parents who've watched their kid grow up in the blink of an eye, I just can't believe it. Soon, sooner than I care to admit, when my girl wakes up in the morning and hops out of bed, the bed won't be in our house. When she grabs breakfast, the Lucky Charms won't come out of our cabinet; the 2% milk won't come out of our fridge. She'll be somewhere in our beautiful state away at college.

Holy crap.

Thinking about her in this way--gone, starting a new chapter on a campus somewhere--makes me teary-eyed. And it makes me thrilled. Memories surface. How can they not? Memories of other mornings when she should have awakened safe and warm in her bed, in our home, but didn't. Memories of mornings before the start of high school when I couldn't know if she was safe, when there was nothing to do but wait and wonder and worry. Was the treatment she was receiving helpful? Did the people there care about her? Would they give her a hug if she needed one? Could they help her want to stay alive? 

The journey wasn't short or easy. She returned home to our joy and our fear, surrounded by a treatment team that took every one of those first steps right beside her. As did her dad and I. Three years ago her first day of high school was such a triumph. But we still had no idea if we'd done enough, if the plan was enough, if the help was enough, or if she was caught in the eye of the hurricane that could, at any moment, lift her up and whisk her out of our lives forever. 

I have an inconceivable amount of gratitude for everyone involved in her treatment, even the ones of mediocre talent. We learned from them, too. This last first day of school is a testament to hope and healing, to strength and courage, and even to despair. It's a testament to teamwork, and to love that was challenged and sustained. And to forgiveness, on her part and ours. I know some of the success is due to luck, chemistry that took to medication and genes that were able to respond to ministrations. I'm grateful for our luck. I'm grateful for her hard work and for ours. Though I try to stay grounded in the present, I'm grateful to have the "normal" fears, excitements, and trepidations of any parent whose child is preparing to leave home to go away to school.  

I will watch my girl take her first steps into a future, one that her complicated past will define only as much as she wants it to.  

  • 24 August 2016
  • Author: Tracey Yokas
  • Number of views: 2614
  • Comments: 7

7 comments on article "The last first day of high school"



8/24/2016 1:10 PM

Don't forget to include you and Tom in the list of people to grateful for! Your stick-to-it-iveness (if that's even a word) is a testament to parenting!

You guys never gave up advocating for your girl!


Tracey Yokas

8/24/2016 2:01 PM

Thanks Wendy...for the reminder! I don't forget, I really don't. It was surely a team effort that included us. XO


Stephanie Maley

8/24/2016 3:10 PM

Olivia looks so beautiful on her first day of her last high school year. She is where she is thanks to her parents, her own hard work, and the multitude of angels. Blessings on you as you walk with her to the edge of the nest.




8/25/2016 8:59 AM

Your gratitude and joy inspire me, Tracey. I'm so happy to see you sending your sweet, hard-working girl off for her last first day of high school. I hope you find deep comfort in knowing how your commitment to mental health care has impacted not only your own amazing daughter, but so many others. Big love to you.


Tracey Yokas

8/25/2016 11:35 AM

Oh Steph and Jess, thank you both so much for reading, commenting, and for your friendship over these last few years. xo



8/28/2016 2:12 PM

Such a beautiful, uplifting story, Tracey! You have come so far! You and your family have been through very tough times. Yes, it takes a lot of hard work to triumph over mental health challenges. I like that you pointed out how luck has something to do with the triumph, too. Luck that the doctor figures out a great medication sooner than later. Luck that a brain responds well to a medication. Luck that a great doctor and support team is found. There are some things we have control over, yet so much is left to chance and timing. I wish that simply hard work itself could fix all that ails, but that's not reality. With hard work and perseverance, we can surely overcome a lot. <3



9/1/2016 6:32 PM

I love these words you use to move on. " that her complicated past will define only as much as she wants it to". Brilliantly said is this your own quote ?

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