Why I Need Horror More Than Ever.

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Last night, as the hour of the first debate drew nigh, I found myself torn.  As someone raised in a family with very strong political opinions, it’s always in my best interest to stay informed.  As someone raised by a mother for whom horror movies were required viewing, I like being scared.  In this, the first of three debates before Election Day, I had the opportunity to be informed AND scared.  But I wasn’t sure if I could deal with this particular kind of scare.  Was it willfully ignorant to sit it out and watch “Re-Animator” instead?

Ultimately, I went for the relative comfort of gore over the risk of elevating my blood pressure by watching the debate.  The personal is political and all that.  I did wind up watching the last 20 minutes or so, and that was enough to give me nightmares.  I’m serious.  I should have stuck with the horror movies.

I honestly don’t think there’s been an election season as frightening as this one.  I don’t know if I was even a fraction as horrified by McCain/Palin as I am right now.  You think there can’t possibly be as stupefyingly preposterous a ticket as the last one, only to be proven horribly wrong.

Anyone who knows me knows who I’m absolutely NOT voting for.  I debated whether or not to even bring it up in this piece.  But I’ll say it, because I may as well:  Trump is terrifying.  Trump is like Leatherface, Jason Vorhees, and Chucky all at once, with a dash of Tall Man from “Phantasm” for bad measure.  I won’t even compare him to Pinhead.  That’s an insult to Pinhead.

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I’m not the kind of horror fan who spends a great deal of time thinking about the psychology of the canon’s chief monsters.  Certainly monsters can represent the things we loathe and fear within ourselves.  And there’s no doubt that isolation, in most cases, creates the monster (see: Grendel, or Frankenstein’s monster).  Sometimes I certainly do find myself rooting for the monster, especially when its “victims” are deliberately unsympathetic (and they’re always the first to go).  I can, and will, wax academic about my preferred genre, but this is when I feel compelled to defend myself and my creepy ways.  Mostly I’m in it for the screams, really.

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But I can’t help but think that this election season is a monster of our own making, fueled by isolation, AND fear, AND loathing.  Unlike Grendel, or Frankenstein’s monster, this isn’t something that is trying to communicate or connect before the fury fueled by constant misunderstanding wipes away all hope of redemption.  This is something that rages, flails, and smirks with a Mephistophelean leer that says: “You’re fucked.”

The scares we want onscreen tend to dovetail with the fears we have as a society.  A couple of months ago, I had a nice chat with Judith O’Dea (from the original “Night Of The Living Dead”) about how the surge in zombie narratives tends to coincide with periods of political unrest.  What does a zombie represent more than the fear of lack of control?  You can’t even be dead without something forcing you to continue to lurch in a mindless herd.

I deeply enjoy cringing and not quite being able to look away from something that’s pulsating, glistening with viscous matter, dragging its entrails, or any combination thereof.  There’s a kind of low comedy to hyper-splatter that keeps one at a reasonable adrenaline level.  Horror allows for the thrill of a “fight or flight” response without having to, you know, actually outrun a guy in a flesh mask wielding a chainsaw.  It’s better than therapy, sometimes.  A vacation into the implausible (although right now it’s also a vacation FROM the implausible).

And so it stands to reason that this is, for me, an escape from the boundless fuckery that is currently, unsuccessfully, masquerading as the 2016 presidential campaign.  I would sooner sit through all four of the “Subspecies” movies again than navigate social media right now.  And Radu has better hair than Trump.

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Booze Vacation

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My best friend just marked her third year of sobriety.  It’s got me all in my thoughts today.

Few things are worse than watching someone you love circle the drain, knowing there’s criminally little you can do to stop it.  On the flip side, few things are better than watching someone you love get better.  Seeing the light return to her eyes.  Celebrating all of those little milestones you pass when you’re newly sober:  first set of holidays, first birthday, first wedding reception.  (I’ll tell you – when you get through that first wedding reception without drinking you feel like Ben Hur or some shit.  I swear to God.)

Perhaps not coincidentally, I’m seeing other people posting those “Here’s Why You Should Stop Drinking For A Month”-type essays again.  People who are waxing ecstatic about all the wonderful things that are coming about for them because they stopped drinking for a month, or two months.  And while I’m totally happy for them, I can’t help but feel that I didn’t get quite the payoff they’re reaping for having not imbibed for 30/60/90 days.  I didn’t magically regain focus and leap into all kinds of amazing projects because OMG THE CLARITY I HAVE NOW.

I have to remember that I had to stop not because it was cramping my style, but because it was killing me.  And that because of the way I drank, it would take years to rewire everything to the point where I could even manage doing a load of laundry without needing to anesthetize myself.  I’m still not there.  The highway system of my mind is full of potholes and I sometimes feel like I spend most of my time putting traffic cones around them instead of, you know, FIXING them.

Basically, I don’t get to “take a break” from drinking.  I have a restraining order on alcohol that has to be renewed pretty much every damn day.  And 99% of the time, I accept that.  But then there’s that occasional point where I look at Booze Vacation people virtually beaming while posting all these breakthroughs they’re having because they haven’t had a beer in two weeks, and I let it get to me.  I think, “Great, and you get to pick back up whenever you want and suffer no consequences.”  That’s the key word for me:  consequences.  I don’t actually envy you because you can have a couple of drinks and stop whenever you want to.  I envy the idea of drinking without consequences.  I never drank normally in my life.  I always drank like there was a raging brush fire in my heart and I needed an endless bucket brigade.  And I didn’t particularly want to stop drinking like that, honestly.

I have to remind myself not take this personally.  I have to remind myself that if someone is doing something that’s improving their quality of life, the correct – and only – reaction is to be happy for them.  Self-care takes on many forms, and it’s not my place to begrudge anyone their methodology, or be an underpaid tour guide in Miseryland.  And we all have our a-ha moments around alcohol.  For some, it’s “Wow!  I have so much more money at the end of the week!”  For me, it was “Wow! So this is what it’s like to wake up rather than come to.”  It’s all worth celebrating.

First Day

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It’s the start of another school year.  In Boston, moving trucks piloted by inexperienced drivers are getting stuck in the Storrow Drive underpass.  The “seasonal aisle” at the drugstores are wiped clear of window fans and hula hoops; in their place are notebooks and backpacks.

And all over Facebook, I’m seeing pictures of my friends’ kids, dressed and ready for the first day of (____) grade.

A close friend of mine texted me a picture of her daughter, all ready for her first day of middle school.  She looked cute as all get-out, and I joked about how sassy she was.  And later that day my friend texted me again, and my heart broke.

It’s a story I know all too well.  There’s another girl, see.  This other girl has found something objectionable about my friend’s daughter.  Something totally unforgivable.  The wrong shoes.  Laughing too much.  Liking “weird” things.  That tangled-up terrain of adolescent girls is virtually impossible to navigate, no matter how prepared you think you are.

My friend told me what happened.  This little pack of girls shunned her daughter.  The years go by, the technology changes, and yet this is still the most vicious, effective weapon in the entire shitty arsenal.  My friend has been up since 3 o’clock this morning, trying to figure out what to do.  She lives in a small community.  The girl’s mother heads up her own pack of “mean mommies.”  They wield a considerable amount of power, just by dint of being petty, garbage people.

I’ve been sitting with this all morning, feeling helpless.  I am almost 46 years old, with pretty specific and desirable computer skills.  I’m a homeowner.  My life is full of amazing, creative, compassionate people like my friend and her daughter.

But right now?  I am 12 years old.  I am waking up in my friend’s daughter’s head, feeling that tightness in my chest, the physical manifestation of a kind of terror that no kid should have to feel.  Trying to figure out a way to negotiate my way through the day ahead.  Can I fake being sick again?  And if I can’t, how can I lay low enough so that I won’t be noticed, and subsequently humiliated?  Will anyone eat lunch with me?  What am I doing wrong?

I can’t tell my friend: “It gets better.”  In the here and now, that’s useless information.  I think about myself at that age, listening to the platitudes of well-meaning adults (“They’re just jealous.” “Ignore them, and they’ll get bored.”) and thinking, bullshit.  The future was impossible to see, beyond the next day.  I enjoyed school up until 6th grade.  By 7th grade, my days were spent trying to will the clock’s hands to move faster.  Even home ceased being a refuge, when the girls in my class decided that the chief entertainment during their sleepovers was calling me, making increasingly bizarre accusations, erupting into spasms of cackling before hanging up, leaving me even more bewildered and horrified.

With all of the bullying awareness these days, one would think this kind of manipulative, nasty behavior would be checked.  It isn’t.  Insular, narrow-minded thinking gets passed down generation to generation.  If your kid is being bullied, he or she needs to get a thicker skin, or maybe try harder not to be such a magnet by stuffing everything down and showing no traces of real personality.  And if you’re an adult talking about what happened to you, and why the events of decades past STILL inform some of your reactions today, you’re soft.  You need to get over it.  You’re a “libtard” for demanding administrative intervention when “kids will be kids.”

I can’t offer anything to my friend and her daughter today, other than an ear and a shoulder and a broken heart.  So I put a plea out here- try not to let the heaviness of whatever you’re carrying drag you down to a level where you cease to muster empathy.  I include myself in this.  It’s much easier, actually, to be kind.  It takes considerably less energy than drawing a box around someone and believing they’re responsible for their isolation and unhappiness, or that it’s inevitable.  That’s your kid being shunned at the bus stop.  That’s your kid being told – on the daily – what a stupid, ugly person she is.  Kids are still somehow learning about the currency of cruelty, how to dole it out just so.

I want so much for my friend’s daughter to have a better day today.

Barb, Queen Of The Night

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The low rumble turned into an enthusiastic hum turned into a cacophonous din of praise.  Stranger Things on Netflix.

I’m three episodes in, and I am in love.

Much has already been written about what is so great about this show.  If you were an adolescent/teenager in the early 80s it’s a nostalgia supernova, incorporating all the Spielbergian tropes of the era (kids versus adults, supernatural friendships, the horror-tastic underbelly of suburbia, missing children speaking through electric devices) with a heavy dose of Dungeons & Dragons thrown in for good measure.  There’s the deliciousness of casting 80s heartthrob Matthew Modine as the show’s sinister antagonist.  And, of course, there’s Winona Ryder channeling JoBeth Williams and Dee Wallace and every harried single mother from the era in what’s probably her best performance in decades.

It’s goddamn delightful.

I was 13 years old in 1983; this show is almost painful to watch, the attention to detail is so exquisite.  I’ve viewed these first three episodes with a curator’s eye, which makes it no less enjoyable.  I’ve squealed inwardly as well as audibly at some of the stuff I’ve noticed (The Dark Crystal poster on Mike’s bedroom wall! The Trapper Keepers the kids are stuffing into their lockers!).

And then there’s Barb.

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THIS is what I’m going to get all thinkpiece-y over, folks.  BARB IS THE BEST GODDAMN THING ON THIS SHOW.

When I first saw her, I legitimately gasped.  Like – mad props to the costumers on this show, because they NAILED it with Barb.  The high-necked ruffle blouses (that sartorial nod to “prairie girl” culture), the mom jeans, the princess-sleeved puffy jacket.  My God.  Perfection.  Even Barb’s hair and glasses were spot-the-fuck-on.  You can picture her carefully managing that coiffure with a curling iron.

BARB IS A QUEEN.

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I knew Barb back then.  I may have even been a little Barb myself.  Barb was the nice girl you ate lunch with.  Barb might have been a horse girl, or a Jesus girl, or a little bit of both.  Barb’s not the smartest kid in class, but she’s a pretty solid B student.  Barb.  ALL HAIL BARB.

(Here be spoilers….so read no further if you haven’t seen the show yet.)

 

 

 

Okay?  The rest of you with me here?  Let’s talk about what happens to Barb.  Because I was not ready for what happened to Barb.

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When what happened to Barb happened, I was INDIGNANT.  I yelled at the television:  “WHY?!  That’s not supposed to happen!  Barb’s not the sexually active one in this bunch!  This is supposed to happen to the slutty mean girl!  THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS.”  First she loses her best friend to the hunk with the pompadour, then THAT.

I mean, Jesus.  You can’t do this to Barb.  You can’t do this to ME.  I don’t how I’m going to get through the next five episodes not looking forward to seeing what Barb’s wearing.  I wanted to see Barb rocking one of those Bermuda bags with the changeable, button on covers.  Because you KNOW Barb has one.  Probably monogrammed, too.

Who do I have to talk to about having Barb come back?  Because if Will can talk to Winona Ryder through a string of Christmas tree bulbs, Barb should be able to talk to Nancy through a curling iron (“Heat up if you can hear me!”).  I’m serious.

I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times…

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Usually I try to post something on my actual sobriety anniversary date, but yesterday’s schedule was such that I couldn’t sit with my laptop and pound out anything close to meaningful.

So.  14 years sober as of 6/19/16.

I’m not really sure where I’m going to go with this.

This was quite possibly the hardest year I’ve had in sobriety.

That’s not to say that at any given time I was tempted to pick up.  Miraculously, when things were at the absolute nadir, mentally and emotionally, the goddamn LAST thing I wanted to do was pour whiskey all over it.

But I had a series of things happen, beginning last fall, that rocked me to my psychic core.  My mental health, always on shaky ground to begin with, got pretty well battered.  I had so many rugs pulled out from under me that I began avoiding rugs altogether, for lack of a better analogy.  I had no soft spot on which to tread, it felt like.

And when my mother-in-law finally succumbed to her years-long battle with Alzheimer’s (she passed away in February), I fell apart.  I mean – I got through the wake and the burial okay.  I put together an album of photos of her when she was well.  Baby pictures.  Pictures of her clowning around with her friends.  It made me feel better to the point where I figured I might be able to pull up some memories of her from before she got sick (which has been an ongoing struggle for me, since most of what I remember about her NOW is her steady decline, and her inability to do things for herself).

But everything that had been churning since last October erupted after she died.  If I’m honest, it was everything that had happened since 2010, when we moved in to take care of her.  My mistake was in thinking my life would “get back to normal” when she moved into assisted living two years ago.  There is no “back to normal” after you’ve been a caregiver.  There is navigating a perilous fucking minefield of emotions before you arrive at a vaguely familiar terrain.  There is having your expectations dashed, restored, then dashed again.  There is the temptation to free fall.  There is the slightest sick thrill in thinking that you won’t be caught, either by loved ones or by circumstances.  There is your sense of faith being blown to bits.  There is the feeling of being small and insignificant, perpetually in the shadow of people who are younger, prettier, and not weighted down by grief and self-loathing.

It’s a giant shitshow, it really is.  And you’re beginning to suspect that there isn’t any intermission.

I didn’t drink.

I fell back into some really puerile, destructive thinking.  Because there’s honestly something quite comforting in being the WORST PERSON EVER.  I’m not sure if “normal” people can understand that.

But I didn’t drink.  And in so doing, I managed to not make things worse for myself.

So there’s that.

I’m crawling out of this, slowly, and with the help of my therapist, my psych nurse, some increased dosages, and my recovery community.  The people in my meetings remind me that I’m not the first to have gone through this – ANY of this – and I’m trying to be humble around that while also acknowledging that my pain is valid.  And it has been painful, no question about that.  I don’t like being constantly afraid.  I don’t like not trusting the people who are closest to me.  I like being happy, or at least more or less content.

Anyway.

We went to see Brian Wilson this weekend.  He performed the entire “Pet Sounds” album, accompanied by the Boston Pops.

This was a nearly transcendent occasion for more than a couple of reasons.  Brian Wilson has been through the wringer, psychologically speaking.  The drugs he was on (both recreational and prescribed) did a number on him.  Most folks know the story there, but in case you don’t, you can get a basic sense of it by watching the fairly recent film Love & Mercy.  Given all of that, it’s a miracle he can get up on that stage and play those songs.

And “Pet Sounds” is not only my favorite Beach Boys album, it’s in the top ten of my favorite albums overall.  There’s really nothing else like it.  Watching it be reproduced, as it were, with the help of a full orchestra is incredibly illuminating.  It’s directed madness.  It’s otherworldly.  It explains almost everything you need to know about the beautiful tangled mess that is Brian Wilson’s brain.  I wish my own tangled mess could produce something even 1/16th as beautiful as that goddamn album.

Brian Wilson.  He has a strange shuffle to his gait.  He has to be assisted to his piano.  Once there, sometimes he plays, and sometimes he conducts, even when there’s a conductor behind him.  And sometimes he just sits there with his eyes closed.  He made everyone sing “Row Row Row Your Boat” twice.  I got the distinct impression that he absolutely would not start playing until we sang it.  There was something so fragile about him, this 70-something year old guy singing these so very painful and gorgeous songs. His voice is broken. He’s broken, but mended in the right places.  The cracks are showing, but it’s so lovely.  My heart burst and shattered over and over again, and at one or two points I full-on sobbed.

Brian Wilson can shuffle up to his piano and sit in the middle of the crazy beauty he created 50+ years ago, and just BE.  This is what I need to remember as I go into my next year of sobriety.

He wasn’t made for these times.  Maybe I’m not, either.  But I’m glad I’m here just the same.

A Letter To Dan Turner

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Dear Mr. Turner:

I doubt you’ll ever see this.  Mine is just one more angry, bewildered voice in the internet wilderness.  Angry and bewildered because of the “punishment” meted out to your son, Brock Turner, who assaulted and violated an unconscious young woman.

But I saw your letter to Judge Aaron Persky, just like nearly everyone else with access to the internet.  And as I read it, my jaw dropped further and further until it was fairly well positioned solidly in my lap.

I don’t even know where to start.  “Tone deaf” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

You write:

“Brock has an easygoing personality that endears him to almost everyone he meets.”

I’m sure.  His victim probably would have found his frantic, violent endeavoring to penetrate her quite endearing indeed, had she not been – you know – unconscious.  I wonder how “easygoing” he was as he ripped her bra from out of her dress to get at her.  Tender.  Gentle.  Endearing.  Yes, your son sounds goddamn delightful, sir.

“As he got older and progressed in school, he needed my intervention less and less as he is gifted in his ability to understand very complicated subject matter.”

Yet he obviously couldn’t grasp the relatively simple concept of NOT RAPING SOMEONE.

And why is that, Mr. Turner?  For all your drilling Brock on his spelling and coaching him in the sports in which he excelled, you seemed to have failed to impart some crucial lessons in respecting women, respecting boundaries.  And we need look no further than this sentence to realize this:

“That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

20 minutes of action.  This is so repulsive and evil that I gasped when I read it.  It says everything we need to know about you and your son.  Reducing this heinous, reprehensible CRIME to snarky innuendo.  Your boy got his 20 minutes of “action,” ho ho ho.  Back slapping all around.

How does that happen?  How does someone manage to completely FAIL to see rape for what it is?  She was on the ground, passed out.  Your son yanked up her dress and drove her unconscious body into the dirt as he attempted to get what he felt he deserved.

What’s the price his victim has to pay for that same 20 minutes?  You don’t seem to want to even consider that.  Because poor Brock is so “devastated” at being a convicted rapist that he can’t even enjoy a steak anymore.  Brock doesn’t enjoy his steak, while his victim has to spend the rest of her life battling fear.  Fear of intimacy.  Fear of other men.  Fear of what others think of her, now that she’s been picked apart like carrion by your son’s defense team.

“Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”

Let me spell this out for you in the way you helped Brock spell out his vocabulary words every week:  THIS IS NOT ABOUT ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION.  THIS IS NOT ABOUT SEXUAL PROMISCUITY.  This is about your son’s forcing himself on someone who was INCAPABLE OF CONSENT.  Rape is not about sex.  Rape is about power.  Rape is the need to degrade and dominate someone.  It has nothing to do with how much either of them drank.  It has nothing to do with how she was dressed.  This was not some tipsy tryst at a party.  This was your son raping a woman behind a dumpster.  Process that.  Comprehend that.

You paint a nice picture of Brock.  A chipper, aw-shucks kind of kid from the Midwest who worked hard and got into Stanford, only to find that Stanford was a hotbed of temptation that turned him to dark practices like binge drinking and “promiscuity.”  The media certainly helped with that, talking about Brock’s swimming stats and running the same beatific image of him, which I won’t post here, because it’s more important to see this picture, that’s only been seen in the past few days.

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I know this guy.  I know this red-eyed, entitled look.  This is the guy who’s felt obligated to assess me, my appearance, and my desirability since I was 12 years old.  This is the guy who grabbed my crotch in the bookstore, then ran out before I could even process what happened.  This is the guy who followed me down Massachusetts Avenue calling me a “cunt” because I wouldn’t flirt back with him.  This is the guy who violated me.  Most women I know and love also know this guy.

The fact that you call this “20 minutes of action” says it all.  Grab a woman, get what you want from her.  Action.  No regard for her whatsoever.  He learned that attitude, just as you most certainly learned it.  That’s cultural.  This is what is meant when we talk about “rape culture.”  This is not some hysterical posturing geared towards demonizing all men.  This is addressing the very real problem of continued, systemic disregard for women.  Attitudes like yours are not isolated.  The question is can they be unlearned?  I hope so, for your sake, and for that of your son’s, and for women everywhere.

The Egg In My Closet

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Night after night, I would fall asleep obsessing over an easter egg I’d left in my bedroom closet.

I bring this up because it’s ridiculous, yes, but it’s also emblematic of my…condition, I guess you’d say.

I’m not sure why I left an easter egg in my closet.  I don’t remember if I hid it there (unlikely, because easter egg hunts weren’t a thing in my family).  I probably intentionally stashed it there with my basket, because I wasn’t a fan of hard boiled eggs as a general rule.  I liked coloring them, but when it came down to enjoying the bounty within the actual basket, I focused strictly on the chocolate (although the bunnies, with their panic-stricken candy eyes fixated on me, also caused problems, to the point where my mother actually started getting me ornate hollow chocolate eggs, which didn’t freak me out nearly as much).

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Anyway, there was an easter egg in my closet.  I was aware of it, aware that it was eventually going to turn into a biological weapon of some sort if I didn’t get it out of my closet.  In the waking hours, it was easier to forget about it as I went about my 9-year-old’s day, making up mock episodes of The Donahue Show on my tape recorder with my sister and the kid across the street.  But at night, I’d lay in bed and think of all the terrible things that would happen because of that easter egg.  My mother would find it and yell at me.  It would explode, rendering my cheery yellow bedroom a hazardous waste site.

But did it ever occur to me that I could simply throw it out?  Well, yes, but somehow I’d convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to stealthily transport it from my bedroom closet into the trash without being caught in the act (“Is that….AN EASTER EGG?  In JUNE?”).  Because this is the way my mind worked.

And this is the way my mind STILL works.

Nearly everyone I meet in recovery has similar issues.  I mean – I don’t think I know anyone else with the exact same easter egg story.  But there’s always an easter egg in there, somewhere.  A metaphorical easter egg, if you will.  Something you’re deeply ashamed of.  You know that there will be incredible relief in disposing of it, and yet you let it sit there.  And that’s where procrastination comes in.  That’s another thing that nearly all of my sober friends wrestle with.  We all know by now that doing something is pretty much never as bad as NOT doing it.  But that’s a lesson that never entirely sinks in for me, or else my closet would be 100% OLD ASS EASTER EGG FREE.

I’m dealing with this right now.  The anxiety and depression have me so simultaneously bummed and amped up that I can’t get up and get this fucking easter egg out of my closet, because I honestly don’t think I’d know what to do with myself if it wasn’t there, rotting away underneath its perky PAAS-tinted shell.  Because at a certain point, anxiety becomes almost comforting.  If it’s the only consistent thing going for you, of course it’s comforting, even as it keeps you from doing actually enjoyable things because OH MY GOD THERE’S AN EASTER EGG IN MY CLOSET AND IT’S THE ONLY THING I CAN THINK ABOUT.

I don’t even remember what I did with the original, actual easter egg.  I mean, this was over 35 years ago.  By the time we moved from that house, there was no easter egg, unless there WAS, and my mother found it, and in the rush to get everything packed didn’t think to ask her progeny “WHAT THE FUCK WITH THE EASTER EGG IN THE CLOSET YOU EVIL SPAWN?”  Or I was determined to be the culprit, and I was punished so hard I entered another dimension not of sight or sound but of mind.  I just don’t know.

But I clearly remember the panic.  I remember grasping, even at nine years of age, that this was completely insane, and that there was probably something really wrong with me, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I’d be able to pretend that I was normal before the kids in my class caught on (about two more years, as it turned out).  There would be many more closeted easter eggs in my future.

“Everywhere I turn, there you are…”

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I’m on Day Three of the “Facebook Cleanse” and I definitely think the problem now is not so much what I think I’m missing, but that people aren’t missing ME.

It’s kind of interesting.  I’m having kind of an existential crisis because I’m not on Facebook.  If a cat picture falls in an empty forest, does it meow?

Forget it.  I’m delirious.  The panic attacks have abated, I seem to be figuring out what’s working for me, pharmaceutically and otherwise, but I’m still tired.  It’s like I’ve suppressed this “fight or flight” instinct that has been raging under the surface for so long that it just started boiling over.  I’m not entirely sure if the contents completely boiled off, or if I’m just sedated to the point where I’m physically unable to panic.  If ravenous lions tore through the office just now, I’d probably just sit here and be like, “Whoa. Lions.” before being torn to bits.

The “vacation” from Facebook is forcing me to do other things in the evening, like read.  Write.  Remember what I used to do before my mind got wiped out by caregiver stress.  I used to do Mortified shows.  I’d read from my high school diaries in front of total strangers.  One of my favorite “threads” that came about from working with Karen Corday and Sara Faith Alterman (the producers of the Boston show) was a series of passages in which I go full-blown Norma Desmond over my high school drama club happenings.

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The entries I read from span from around 1985 to 1988, and include my very mature and measured musings on not only the high school endeavors, but those of the musicals I did every summer with a teen theatre troupe.

When I initially showed Karen and Sara this stuff, one name jumped out at them.  “Sue Tedeschi?  You mean Susan Tedeschi?”

Indeed.  Susan was the bright star of my Summer of ’86.  That was the summer we did Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  Even then, that girl could BELT.  I was at turns awed by and insanely jealous of her.

We got older, aged out of that particular group; I went on to get some rather silly degrees and spent my twenties running around in my underwear in booze-soaked experimental theatre productions in the basements of bars.  And, well, Susan won a Grammy award.  But listen – if there was an awards show for being insanely drunk and wrapped in chains while doing a cover of a David J. song, I would have won ALL OF THE THINGS BY GOD.

Listen – this all ties together, I swear.

My mother-in-law died in February, after fighting that goddamned fucking Alzheimer’s for so long. My husband and I left the hospital to begin the process of making calls and arrangements.  And as we drove down Route 1 in Saugus, this song came on:

I don’t know if there could have been anything more oddly comforting to me in that moment.  I haven’t talked to Susan in decades.  But I know that voice in my bones.  And I sat in the car and just let it wash over me.  It didn’t stop the grief, of course not.  But it let me be in the moment for a few minutes.  I remember the grey clouds hanging over Route 1, I remember thinking that I was eventually going to need to eat something, and I remember Susan Tedeschi singing.

I’d like to thank her for that.

 

Pulling Plugs.

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I’m not quite sure what it says about the culture, or just about me, that I’m sitting here writing a “thinkpiece” about why I pulled the plug on Facebook this morning.  A Google search will yield all kinds of posts like this.  Why I Left Tumblr.  Why I Left Twitter.  And I’m not even 100% certain I’m going to permanently scrap my Facebook page.  What I do know is that it’s not helping matters right now.

I have clinical depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, and a host of other things simmering away in the janky old crockpot that is my head.  The medication that was recommended I take backfired, horribly. So I’m back to the drawing board.  And I am trying to think of what needless stressors I can jettison while I am trying to get well.

And I had to come to the conclusion that a big one was Facebook.

It’s not just because we’re in an election year, although that has something to do with it.  There’s an epic fuckton of negativity going around there, from all sides.

And issues.  So many issues.  So many people all of a sudden terrified that the “transgendereds” (sic) are demanding too much special treatment, treatment that is evidently going to throw wide the bathroom doors and usher in a terrible new epoch where molesters in dresses will lurk in stalls and under sinks.  And no amount of common fucking sense will quell the hysteria.

But then there’s just me.  Me being the obsessive, perpetually panic-stricken weirdo that I am.  Second-guessing every last goddamn thing I post, because I know that SOMEONE is going to take it the wrong way and launch some passive-aggressive ickiness my way.  I don’t like to make people mad.  But I also don’t like being pelted with “Well, actually…” when I’m trying to just work something out in my own space.  That happened fairly recently.  I also have had to deal with former friends creating fake accounts specifically to harass me after I terminated the original connection.  There’s something about the place that encourages disrespect, and brings out some nasty things in people, myself included.

And as I’m trying to deal with this latest, near-crippling, depressive episode, I’m finding that I just don’t want to be anyone’s court jester right now.  That’s pretty much always been my role, ever since I was a kid.  But jesters need a break, too.  But when I try to get serious, I’m apparently not serious enough. Or I’m exclusionary. I’m deliberately trying to make people feel bad. Can’t win.  Tired of trying.

The thing is – I love Facebook.  God help me.  I do.  I reconnected with a lot of old friends there.  Very few platforms are easier to share one’s writing on, and for that reason, I’m wary of completely walking away from it.

What I need to figure out is just how important it is for me, really.  How much I am really going to be missing by not being able to click in every 20 minutes?  And then that brings up the more uncomfortable question:  how much are people really going to miss ME?  I have to admit that, as I sit here writing this, Facebook is rolling along perfectly fine without my wiseassery and Peter Murphy videos.

I won’t lie – today it’s been embarrassingly difficult to not log back on, reactivate shit, and pretend like I never announced I was leaving.  I’ve seen that plenty of times, and I get it.  It’s like being in junior high again and knowing in my heart of hearts that everyone is having a slumber party, complete with a rousing game of “Light As A Feather Stiff As A Board,” without me.  And I desperately want to make sure that’s not true.  But for my own sanity, I can’t.  I’ve committed to being off this particular grid for at least seven days.  I suspect I am going to be happier for it, but right now, I am jonesing hard.

Pass The Trazodone

1

So, after a really gnarly anxiety attack yesterday, we’re on a new regimen.  We’ve added a med, readjusted another med, and – hopefully – in tandem with the regular exercise and recovery meetings, I’m going to get this shit under control again.

The last few years dumped a whole lot of awful on me.  I thought that I could handle it just doing what I was doing.  I was horribly, laughably wrong.  I’ve been in a depressive, paranoiac swirl (sounds like a good ice cream flavor, if you’re totally losing your shit) since October, when I got badly triggered by a series of events (and anyone who thinks that “triggers” are bullshit can have all of these seats, and should remain in them until further notice).  A lot of the time I was able to manage, but I shouldn’t just be “managing.”  It’s a joyless way to go about your days, boy fucking howdy.

So I’m on this new medication now.  I can’t say for certain what it’s doing.  I feel a little less like running down the street screaming, but that’s probably psychosomatic.  There’s a lot of behavioral stuff that I need to incorporate over the next weeks and months as well.

I’m in this place where the worst case scenarios in my head are intruding into my actual reality.  RUDE.  I can stave that off at work, because cold, hard data is something I understand and take comfort in extracting and manipulating.  The SQL Management Studio and Excel are my boon companions.  But being at home invites aaallllll the neurochemical uglies.  And it’s become increasingly hard to keep them down in the root cellar where they belong.

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I know how a lot of people feel about medication.  I’ll just say that I’m not here for anyone who wants to scream BIG PHARMA at me right now.  I’ve been worn down to an emotional nub since moving into my mother-in-law’s house in 2010, and if you don’t believe that caregiving can actually mess with someone’s brain, well, Google is your friend, but here’s a good start.

Even with my mother-in-law gone, I’m struggling to put myself back together.  I’m still afraid to make plans.  And I can’t keep the panic at bay anymore, not without help.  Take an imaginary stroll in my stacked heels before you judge me or how I’m choosing to get my life back.

Sorry.  I’m tired.  I’m angry.  I’m angry at my brain for, you know, not being able to DEAL.

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We’re heading into summer soon.  I want to have a nice summer.  I want to go to Maine like we do every July and not be a panicky mess.  I want to take day trips to Salem and New Bedford.  I want to go to my annual Database Nerd conference and be a poised, knowledgeable nerd.  I want to be someone that Coombsie doesn’t have to walk on eggshells around. And damn it, I got Walker Stalker Con to go to.  The Governor is going to be there.  No, not Charlie Baker, because fuck that guy.  THE GOVERNOR.

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So, here’s hoping I’m going to stomp this down for a while.  Pass the Trazodone.