Death, Be Not Proud

I haven’t written from inside of symptoms in months, but I’m getting ready to hop on the podcast this weekend, so I’d better practice ripping my head open when it’s reeling — it’s been a while. We’re talking about suicide again on MK Ultrasound but not the act (we’re going to have fun on there, too — I promise). Ideation. What that looks like.

I drive white-knuckled, mantra humming in my head You will not drive into traffic, because the same as a person living with AIDS may harbor fear of The Cold I Won’t Come Back From, the Suicide Set knows self-destruction has swooped in unexpected before and moved our hands to knives and pills.

For me, suicide exists outside of me and comes in. At least it feels that way. Something invades. I don’t invite it over to play a vicious slideshow of bullets through my head, jumps onto tracks or slit throats — but my old friend comes in anyhow and does it. Nestles into my bed and shows me pictures of me dying while it strokes my cheek.

Sometimes I flinch. From my own thoughts, the ones I don’t mean to think. They’ve made me cry. That’s when I know I might not be okay.

When I was a young gothy-thing, I read Dante and imagined if Hell existed, I’d land in the second circle being blown around for the sin of lusting. Unwanted suicidal thoughts are those winds. It’s dizzying and visceral without any pleasure.

When I’m typing, I sit at the center of the cyclone. When I’m done, I might dance or stretch. I’ll leave if I have to. This is me catching myself before it catches me.

Love to you, Tribe.



I’m cooking jambalaya for the bar today. I’ve never made this before, but I’ve eaten it enough, so I found a basic recipe with celery, peppers, chicken and sausage and am rolling with it. I’m elaborating and improvising, though. They don’t stock smoked paprika at the store I stopped at yesterday, but I bought andouille instead of the plain smoked meat it calls for. I added the requisite cups of chicken broth, but I’m boiling bones from the thighs I clumsily butchered at seven this morning, simmering them until it’s time to leave for work, then I’ll dump the rich liquid into the crock pot. I squeezed a few tomatoes from my garden in as well and tripled the garlic.

There won’t be anymore new tomatoes this season. That’s what I know about late September. Whatever fruits are still on the plants won’t grow larger, and their red-ripening will nearly quit now. This is the time of year that I Google “recipes for green tomatoes NOT fried” — not because I dislike fried green tomatoes but because I plant cherry and grapes ones. I might make fritters with them this year, though.

I love this harvest. Mabon is a kiss on the back of my neck. Whether you call it Fall, Equinox, Holiday or Nothing, you feel this one. It’s a change in the air. It’s a momentary balance between the dark and light, time to hold them both and recognize their equal power and necessity.

See what this year’s sun grew. Eat and can what’s nourishing and will keep; toss the rest back in your garden for next year’s earth. The roots and gourds still finishing in the ground won’t mind. They’ll welcome the seeds.

One more harvest to go, then it’s the dark part of the year. This is just the start, but it goes fast. Soon sunset will fall before five and sunrise will come after seven.

While my jambalaya cooks, I’m straightening my room. I seem to rearrange it with the seasons — the current configuration feels like a fairy tale to me. Kids are still sleeping (one on the couch, the other in her Cupboard Under the Stairs), and I need to shower. I want to go outside, though, and put bare feet in the grass and soak up some of the green energy and warmth still near the surface. It gets cold in the dark.

Writers Write

The night I could-have-died-but-didn’t, my mother dreamed I’d been beaten. So did one of my daughters.

The night I could-have-died-but-didn’t, I said my version of a prayer to The Universe before it happened. While I drove to my friend’s house, I felt unease and talked out loud on the stretch of Ridgeland that meets up with Oak Forest Avenue by the tracks. Let me bring peace. I didn’t know why I was saying it. I turned the car and kept going.

Close-up of bruised legs on a hospital gurney

My mother thought a man had done it ⁠— that’s what she told me. In her dream, when she saw me bruised and bleeding, she assigned my wounds to that kind of violence.

When the paramedics saw me, they did the same. And so did the police. I don’t think they believed me that two women came into the bedroom where I’d lain down with my friend and beaten my face, stabbed the top of my head with the point of a kitchen knife. They weren’t buying that he was nearly comatose from drinking, just mumbling and barely aware, so I’d climbed in beside him to sleep.

The Authorities didn’t believe me because they’d met him before ⁠— my sleeping friend. I told them the truth. I said, I know that every other time you’ve taken someone bleeding from his house, he did it ⁠— but it wasn’t him this time. He’s why I’m alive.

They didn’t believe me because it looked like a love triangle. I was An Other Woman who wanted to pin a drunk’s blows on The Recent Ex.

I’ve had times since then when I’ve wondered who he should fear the most: the woman who stabbed someone in the head over him or the one who took the knife and didn’t immediately stop seeing him. We’re both formidable.

In the ambulance, two paramedics told me it was up to me if I wanted to go to a hospital or not.

My head is bleeding, and I jumped out a window naked. I think I should go to the hospital.

Well what one do you want us to take you to?

I don’t know. Don’t you have one you just use?

No, it depends on your insurance.

Well I have Medicaid, so it should be covered at any of them.

No, not necessarily.

I can’t get more bills.

Then the paramedic got out, closed the double-doors of the ambulance behind him, and I heard him say to a police officer: She’s refusing medical treatment.

That’s when I broke. That’s when I came out of the ambulance in front of the crowd (because after I jumped out the window, I pounded on doors and no one answered. At one house, a Golden Retriever stared at me through the storm door while I huddled in the blanket that had come out the window with me. I knocked and rang and knocked and rang. Lights were on but no one came. So I ran through a backyard to the next street, a busy block with bars. I’d flagged down a bouncer who gave me his shirt and called 911, but it was Friday at midnight ⁠— the patio was full, and this was a scene).

I called the paramedic a liar. I screamed things. The officers seemed young and looked at me like they didn’t know what to do, like they might toss a net over me if they could, and finally the one woman with a badge said, I think you should go to the hospital, and we’ll send an officer with you.

Here’s something I learned. When they think you’re a battered woman, nobody cares. They don’t want to bother taking you to the hospital, because you’ll go back to the bastard anyhow. They let your blood dry and cake up in your hair. No ice packs or ibuprofen unless you ask. They just let you swell.

Around 5 a.m., they took my blanket.

We’re going to have to take that for evidence.

I don’t have any pants. Everything is still in his house.

When I got away, it was because we all realized I was bleeding, and the sight of the blood put a pause in the room that let my friend usher them out of his bedroom. As the door closed I heard his ex say, I can’t believe you’re taking her side. He said, I’m not.

I don’t know where the presence of mind came from to try the window, but whatever it was, that was all the clarity I was granted. I should have pulled on my dress. I should have picked up my purse or grabbed my phone.

My belongings the police found in a bag by my vehicle. My friend put it there for me when he couldn’t find me. It was there the whole time police told me he wouldn’t give up my stuff.

At the hospital, police came in and out of my room for several hours. Each time they’d ask a question about him, our contact, what I knew about a fight he’d been in earlier that day.

They told me they’d knocked at his door, but he refused them entry (at no point did they say they’d attempted to enter the residence of the women who assaulted me). I asked them to ask him to put my purse on the porch so I could call someone to get me. I needed my phone and my keys. An officer said they would try, and hours later told me that “he [wasn’t] cooperating.”

He isn’t cooperating…you know anything about the guy he fought with at Shell earlier? Did he know him?

After the comforter went, two CNAs came in ⁠— Hispanic girls who poured peroxide on my head and talked to me while it ate the blood from my hair. They told me how it dissolved the protein and works better than anything else. No badges or titles, they were kind. When they brought me fresh clothes so I could walk out of the emergency room, I’d been there nearly six hours.

The night I-could-have-died-but-didn’t, I stopped writing. I stopped cleaning my apartment and enjoying cooking. The only thing I’ve consistently done since then is breathe; everything else has been fits and starts.

I didn’t die ⁠— that’s what I said for weeks after ⁠— but I did. Some version of me is under his floorboard covered in ants. So I have to write.

Captain’s Log: Stardate 08192019

My brain had a panic attack — the Send ALL the Adrenaline kind — while I slept last night. It woke me. Right around 1:30 in the morning, I woke up gripped with the fear/certainty that I was literally dying. When I was 19, I liked eating acid in the middle of the night when I was falling asleep so that I would be forced awake by the trip’s peak. In those seconds that you go from unaware to aware, I would also go from sober to blazed out of my mind on LSD. Having a panic attack in your sleep is like a terrible version of that.

I’m pretty good at telling myself it’s just an anxiety attack and getting through it these days. None of the physical discomfort disappears just because I understand what’s happening, but it makes it less awful if I can keep one little toe from one foot on the ground, so to speak. I still shake. I still sweat or shiver and feel every twinge in my body like the vibration of a death knell, but I have tricks now.

I tell myself things like, “It’s not a heart attack, because you’d be dead already because this has been going on for 20 minutes.” Or, “Stomach pains do not mean you’re full of cancer and about to expire.” And that helps. I call people and ask them to distract me. I take baths, stretch, move my body. Sometimes I just let myself freak out and cry; the only way out is through.

Last night I phoned a friend and popped a Xanax. I don’t like taking them, but I feel like I have as healthy of a relationship with alprazolam as is possible for someone like me. On the rare occasion that I do dissolve one under my tongue, I’m grateful I can.

Today my directive to myself is to listen to my brain and my body. They’re both very, very tired. And I’m more prone to things like blitzkrieg panic attacks when I’m this exhausted.

Tonight, while Facebook scrolling, I noticed a friend who works in restorative justice posted something on her page that listed out the things every month should contain: a lunch date with a friend, a movie night, a day outdoors, a breakfast meetup, a date with your kids, a day to yourself — you get the point.

Truthfully, my first thoughts were: Go fuck yourself with that. A movie night? A lunch date? A DAY TO MYSELF? What kind of privileged-ass… and then I stopped myself, because she’s not privileged. She’s damaged. Beat. The. Fuck. Up by this life. And busy too, just like I am. So I shut it down. She probably doesn’t get to do half of those things in a month either, but the message is valid. Take care of you.

Later on, a close friend messaged to check on me. She said she attended a restorative yoga class tonight and then wrote, “I will go again.”

So my mind is on restoration. Restorative things. Rest. And I’m thinking about friends. The one who posted the list that made my tired, crabby self talk like a belligerent 15-year-old in my head. The one who checked on me and told me about something healthy she did for herself. The one who took my son and me to dinner tonight after I got off work. And the one who answered last night when I was afraid I was about to die.

“You okay?”

“Yeah. I’m good. I mean, no. I’m calling you in the middle of the night while you’re on vacation. I’m not okay. But I know I’m okay.”

Then he distracted me and my meds kicked in.

People take care of me all the time, and I try to give it back and take care of them when they want or need it, but the song The Universe is singing to me says that self-reliance, self-soothing, and self-awareness are what I need the most.

Onward and upward, loves. Tomorrow holds another try at everything.

School Daze:

Tribe, it’s August. Depending on where you live, your school-age children are either just starting their new academic year or anticipating this year’s First Day.

I’m going to let you in on something: a lot of depressed, bipolar, anxiety-punched people have no fucking idea where the social security cards are. The amount of paperwork, appointment-making and keeping, and interfacing with public school personnel involved in getting your kid(s) registered and set for school is sometimes Holy Shit Mountain to us (I mean, really, I think it’s a daunting pain in the ass for everyone, and actually, I think the public school system is a good idea failing that gets co-opted by pundits and money-grabbers at the expense of our children’s peace). So if you climbed it, color me impressed.

My household is on the edge of readiness. One kid is entirely enrolled but still needs supplies; another will cruise in with everything in place at the last minute, but they’ll make it.

I wish I was better at this. It’s nothing to do with love or lack of it for my children. It might have a little something to do with my inherent disdain for institutions and my own early-life experiences with Front Office Ladies. But mostly? It’s my brain wires and juices.

Some years are better than others. I’m calling this one a 7, but without my support network I’d be looking at a 3. If you’re still in the thick of it, we’re all rooting for you. One way or another, it’s going to come together. Maybe a little late even, but it will happen.

Up For Air

Today I cleaned off my desk. Yes, I shifted some of the junk—the loose change, un-cased DVDs, bracelets, mystery toothbrush—to my bed , but I have a space to sit down and write again, and that’s more important than presenting a non-eyebrow-raising sleeping place right now. I’ve been on sabbatical, off in the world doing the things I do that I eventually write about. The Universe served some unexpected dishes this time, and I’m still chewing on some pieces, digesting others.

I Met Gallagher

Gallagher 7.5 rtjpg

And I took pictures of him, argued with him about abortion. Debated words. Watched him hold court.

I Nearly Died


This story is nooooo fun, but I made it. I’ll trigger-warning the shit out of the blog about this one. Family members, if you insist on reading this, please call me first. (I’m looking at you, Aunt Linda. I love you.)

I Came Off Prozac

“I’m not sure if I’m manic or just normal again, but I’m rolling with it.” – Me to multiple people over the last month.

If your world has been burning, you’re not alone. My head is back in Story. More soon. I hope we all make it through today. Love love.

Open Letter To Anthony DeLuca

Dear Representative DeLuca,

I am writing to share my response to your “…thoughts on pending legislation that would legalize ‘Marijuana’ for recreational use in Illinois,” as published in your newsletter on 5/6/2019. To be completely transparent, I’m coming to you from the angle of a recovering drug addict with PTSD, a medical cannabis card-holder, a cannabis advocate, a parent, and a writer—the only place I have any real expertise is in the words. Everything else is anecdotal.

I love that you start by talking about what we call things and—as you really emphasized—what we don’t call things (“Don’t be misled, Cannabis is the same drug as marijuana, pot, dope or weed.”) Of course it is, because Cannabis is the Latin genus that encompasses the three branches of the weed family—the indicas whose sedative effects make it the right medicine for someone like me, their sativa sisters whose head-high rattles my brain and throws me into anxiety, and the auto-flowering and less fussy ruderalis.

Marijuana is a word that came from Mexico in the early 20th century (that magical time when white men really started cutting their disguise-racism-as-policy teeth and planted the corpse flower we’re all currently smelling on social media, every news station and anywhere people go). The legend of the xenophobic roots of the U.S. War on Drugs/Brown Folks and Other Outsiders is one of the canonical stoner myths that seems to be true. Here’s an easy read on it (way better than my hot take would be, and I urge everyone to read it).

Pot, weed, dope? I want to talk about dope, Representative.

Dope is what you call heroin. Sometimes it means meth. You shoot dope, snort dope, cook it. I hope you don’t know any of this. I hope that you and your circle have been spared the agony of addiction and that you wrote that word from a place of genuine ignorance. That’s statistically unlikely, though, anywhere. Your 80th District is no exception.

With full acknowledgement that a long time ago, “dope” was slang for cannabis, I suggest taking that one off of your list. Words really are important.

And powerful.

Toward the end of your letter, you refer to THC as “one of the most harmful poisons” in dope [sic]. Poisons. One of them. Plural. Poisons kill living things. They induce extreme illness. Nothing in cannabis kills people or comes near it. That is irrefutable science.

Of course, there are metaphors, but as a professional writer and copy editor, I suggest you revise your sentence if you meant metaphorical poison—right now, it just looks like a language-based scare tactic and a lie.


Angela Denk

P.S.  I noticed that you advocate for veterans—thank you. I’m not one but I love many. I’ve poured their drinks behind south suburban bars off and on for much of my adult life, and I’ve had the privilege to interview them on their experiences in combat. My paternal grandfather designed torpedoes for the Navy. The maternal one was a Marine. My only uncle served over 20 incredible years in the U.S. Air Force (we joke that he has top secret clearance and knows things—but the truth is he travels the world installing and instructing the military on software upgrades to fighter jets and that’s in his retirement), and I recently congratulated one of my little brothers on becoming a Reservist. He’s a nurse anesthetist who wants to provide his expertise and service to wounded soldiers. I’m as fierce about the military as I am about unions (the men in my family who weren’t soldiers were union workers, and one was both, but I digress).

These veterans you and I care for have been through hell. The tie between PTSD and veteran suicides is undeniable. Here is a link to the FY18 IDPH report on the State’s medical cannabis pilot program. Spoiler: PTSD is the top-qualifying condition, and veteran applications have increased nearly five-fold over the course of the pilot program. I urge you to consider veterans when you vote on legislation on cannabis, recreational or otherwise.