Friends who call out your bullshit while it falls off your lips are the only kind I can have right now. The delivery can vary—one can listen until you’re done then break it down, another might chant oxymoron while you keep verbally angling around your self-destructive plans—but they are treasured the same and what I need.
My therapist is like this—THANK GOD—and today I’m a mess.
We’ve been sick over here since Monday, and now my son and I are on the mend. The apartment looks like a dead battlefield. We really fucked some shit up, and I haven’t gone outside our front door in over 72 hours. I scrubbed my face today, though, and that helps. My bedroom window is open even though it’s cold outside; the sound of passing cars and breeze are a good warm-up for this afternoon when I drive to ___________. It won’t feel as abrupt.
This weekend, I leave for ________ to see my daughters for the first time since they moved back down there during the holidays. I’m dying, dyyyyying to hug my babies and have some eye contact with them.
I need to drink a smoothie. Nothing nutritious has gone inside me in days, because prior to The Plague, we had a birthday party. I’m eating Pringles and potato salad as I type.
All of this fuels my gratitude that in about an hour, I’m going to be sitting across from a woman who gets paid to have the patience to help me talk through my shit. My friends do it all the time, but it gets old for them. Now is about finding patterns and disrupting them, tracing behavior to root causes and recognizing them for what they are.
Today might be a doozy of a session. Wish my therapist and me strength and humor.
Sometimes I tell people that if I was left to my own devices and had no other living things depending on me to not be horrible, I would live naked on a room-sized pile of dirty laundry. I would weave weed-stems and bones into my hair, paint stripes on my cheeks with cigarette ashes while I chain-smoked and took speed. I’d go out happy and fast. I’d be a lunatic humming in trash, crying on my way into the light–a schizo lovechild of the warty garbage lady from Labyrinth and Daryl Hannah when she was Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear. And that’s why I should see a therapist.
People laugh like I’m joking when I say it, and I usually say it because they’ve done something like compliment any of my practical life skills. I’m compelled to crush that immediately, not because I’m bad at All The Things All The Time but because I’m a lifelong addict with the usual mental illness flight that comes with (grows? causes?) addiction–anxiety, depression, manic moments that last from a few hours to years, and that makes it hard to sustain any kind of uninterrupted status quo no matter how hard I try.* And I’m bad at accepting compliments.
One of my Best Forever Sister Friends and I take selfies making the grossest, ugliest faces we can muster and send them to each other with no warning sometimes. While there’s no score, schedule or rules to this game, you know you’ve won when the recipient cusses you for making her laugh for emeffing real–out loud and against her will–in a public place. The naked lunatic-junkie picture I like to paint is a word version of one of those faces. My jaw doesn’t always jut into a pronounced under-bite but it can; I’m not perpetually in a holy-shit-balls-to-the-wall mental health crisis but I get there.
One of my favorite, favorite, favorite things about being lucky enough to still be alive is learning how to accept myself. Right now, I’m working on the part where I find the line between To thine own self be true and FUCK IT I’M NUTS NOW! and mark it on my map: DO NOT CROSS. I’m still pinning down the coordinates, and I’m grateful to have a co-pilot on this mission in the form a smart twenty-something who listens to my shit then says things like, “Okay, well, that was a lot of assuming feelings and outcomes based on past experiences that aren’t this one at all.”
Therapy is good.
*But I/you/we don’t get to quit trying. I just hate for people to feel disappointed when, despite love and counseling and sleep and meds, I go off the rails and do it all wrong sometimes anyhow.
I found this meme on Instagram today that said something like: Mental wellness is not Fight Club. We can talk about it. (I don’t remember the precise words, and I couldn’t find it again because I’m still pretty lost on that platform. Signed, I’m 43)
It made me think of this album of selfies I took in 2010 when I impromptu dressed up as Marla Singer from Fight Club on Halloween and met my fresh-from-jail, married boyfriend at a frog pond in Kentucky to make Adderall-love on the dock next to a car I probably didn’t have permission to drive that night (I’m sorry, Nancy and Joan). I took the pictures first. In some of them, my daughter is smiling in the background.
So we can talk about it. Mental health, mental wellness, sadness, addiction, recovery, sexual assault and abuse. We can and should. If we talk about people we love who hurt us, awful things we’ve done to other humans, and all the ways we try to forget or heal it, we make a sound. We howl to our pack, call to our tribe. We stop being Alone.
Alone is when suicide comes like cancer. It’s a shadow that shows up, the dark spot that takes some people out. I wish those kinds of thoughts on no one, and I don’t fancy myself unique for having them.
We also need to laugh. One of my favorite lessons I learned while spectacularly failing out of a great undergrad creative writing program (I stopped wearing shoes for the most part at some point during my schooling) is: There are no sacred cows. None, fuckers. So if you don’t think a drug overdose can ever be funny (or if you’re related to me), maybe you don’t want to read my blog.
My mission is to hold cyber-hands and laugh whenever we need to.
In other news: therapy starts Monday, I still hate washing dishes, and I don’t really want to go to work today. But I’m going.
Over and out. See you—hopefully—on the sunny side.
I like it here. Despite the See You Next Tuesday I don’t even share walls or a hall with who told the police she smells weed coming from my apartment, I like it. (As an aside, I wish I knew what word she used. Was it “reefer?” Please baby Jesus let it have been that. I suspect it was plain old “marijuana,” but Chicagoans can nasal that word up good enough to make it fun too. This makes me think, though, of the time Old Best Friend kicked her feet up on her mother’s dining room table and declared, “There’s nothing wrong with blowing a little grass, Mom.” It was like The Universe whispered a dare into her mind to do it, and she rose like a maniacal champion to the challenge. So much of why I loved her.)
I like how this place feels, and I want to stay a while. My son can run here (we just left a second floor apartment where I not only had to ask/tell All Children Who Entered to be Calm, Quiet Things, but in order for them to go outside to play, an adult had to be willing to stop what they were doing and go with them the whole time because distance and traffic demanded it). Imagine how much we both love the giant first-floor windows that let him play in the courtyard on his own or with friends while I watch from a couch or table.
Once I had most of my stuff here, I knocked on all of your doors—the ones across and above, whose entryways and stairs connect with/are mine too—so I could introduce myself and deliver the following awkward address:
Hi, I’m your new neighbor. I just moved in with my son. He’s four and energetic, so if we’re ever too noisy, please let me know. Also, if I park in the wrong spot, or if my boyfriend needs to move his car for you, please just knock and tell us. He sleeps over sometimes. Additionally, this is my medical cannabis card. Please please please tell me if the smoke is coming through a vent or in the hall so I can adjust something in my place to prevent that.
I only got to say it to one of you, a gentleman above me who mostly made no words and stared at me while I just kept talking. No one else answered.
Since then, I’ve been burning incense, lighting candles, white saging the shit out of my living room and kitchen (the two rooms with doors going to our shared halls) every time I smoke, and I even was using an eighth-grade-dryer-sheet blow tube to try to reduce the smell. (No joke. I tried to get friends to do it too. No bueno. No dice except for a few uncomfortable sessions in my bedroom.)
Although I still desire to be a Good Neighbor (and I really do—I have OVERWHELMING LOVE for other humans. It’s probably part of my mental illness—which is why I have the card that made the police not give a damn that someone/anyone/everyone smells weed coming from my apartment—to love like that. My instinct is to nestle into the soul of every person I meet, and I try to bring you all inside me. I totally want to be a nice person to live next door to.), I won’t be jumping through any more incense-hoops to spare your sensibilities or your noses.
Because cannabis is my medicine. One of them. And it’s as legal, less risky, and more effective for anxiety-ridden-addict-brained-artsy-creative-types like me who might accidentally or intentionally die from Other Things Doctors Give Out For Kickbacks. (It’s great, too, for cancer patients, chronic pain sufferers, and anyone who wants it, because New World Order, bitc— I mean, it’s real medicine. And it works. It has a long history of working, and our country’s nasty, racist laws have prevented our scientists from doing real research into modern benefits and methods of terpene extraction for way too long.) And after cartwheeling courtesy at you, it stung (despite the dark humor) when I thought I was dying and called 911 and one of you took time out of your day to tell the police officer that you smelled weed.
So by all means, let me know if Boyfriend or I have parked in the wrong place. Please tell me when my kid and his friends are being too loud (they will be—I promise—because they’re an awesome troop of bandits with loud voices and big hearts. They have dance parties and play hide-and-seek. Sometimes I let them play my synthesizer.). But I’m not going broke on room spray or candles so I can take my medicine.
For three days after I turned into a Prozac Dragon, I didn’t take my medicine.
Prozac Dragon is the fun name I made up for when my antidepressant capsule got hung up somewhere in my esophagus last week (December 12, 2018, to be exact–a Wednesday. I was supposed to work at the bar, and when I sent my manager a picture of the paramedics, he texted back I’m very sorry to hear that. You are still coming to work though right?), but I somehow didn’t feel it get stuck (there was a weird twinge when I took it, but I ignored it, because I tell myself daily that part of being a human is having random physical things stab and pinch and jolt inside of you for no alarming reason, so that I don’t always have panic attacks).
What happens when a powder-filled capsule hangs undetected in a saliva-y esophagus is that eventually (for me 20 – 30 minutes after I thought I’d swallowed the thing) the capsule’s coating dissolves. I am not a doctor. I was not inside me watching this shit happen, but what I imagine was that the little load of powdered fluoxetine went POUF and hovered like Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff, and then my autonomic Will to Effing Live (take that, suicidal ideation) sent a geyser of breath up from my root chakra/maybe my ass hole to expel the powdery death trying to invade my lungs.
Sister-Friend was there. Sister-Friend is bad at emergencies, but it’s not her fault. She just is. My mother, who is also bad at emergencies, was on the way to my apartment (Wednesday was her babysitting day).
Back to the Dragoning.
Whatever precisely happened inside, what I experienced was a sudden rush of Breath I Neither Took Nor Willed moving so forcefully and fast out of me that my mouth opened and I dropped to the floor. I saw a vapor-like powder come out of my nose. It was like a line of cocaine in reverse. It burned bitterness all the way up, and the chemical taste nauseated me from the throat down.
This also tripped the fight-or-flight wire in my delicate little brain and threw me immediately into a full-blown-all-the-adrenaline-I’m-dying anxiety attack.
The burning feeling was turning to numbness (a totally normal thing when time release medication has fracked its way up out of you, but when you don’t know that’s what happened, because you didn’t know that was a thing that could happen, it feels like dying). I thought I couldn’t breathe. I also thought I couldn’t stand up.
I mean, I don’t remember thinking Oh fuck, I can’t walk! I just stopped. From the time I hit the floor until the paramedics arrived and sat with me on my couch, I crawled. For some reason when physical attacks come like this, I want to press myself to things or be held tightly. I cling to floors.
Sister-Friend brought me water and called Boyfriend for me on speaker (a remarkable thing, because she was nearly crying–she’d never seen this kind of chemical fuck-up panic disorder episode and was upset by how the adrenaline made me shake), but I don’t remember much other than hearing him talk.
Ultimately, I called 911. Because I didn’t know if I should or not, and neither did Sister-Friend or my mother. They wanted me to make the decision. They wanted the lady on the floor who just blew Prozac fire out her left nostril to be in charge.
The paramedics were kind (and so was the cop, the obligatory There’s An Emergency So a Cop Comes officer–once we all knew I wasn’t dying, he left then came back minutes later to tell me a snitchy neighbor had pulled him aside when he walked out to tell him she smelled weed coming from my apartment. He documented my medical cannabis card, and there was much rejoicing).
So you can see why I was afraid to take my Prozac.
The first two days were good. In fact, I started building a belief that Prozac was causing my severe anxiety attacks (not upheaval, not sadness, not daughters going back to Kentucky, moving apartments, leaving my cushy job I hated and giving up health insurance–it’s the damn SSRI), so I didn’t take it.
Today I held hands with a woman on a train station bathroom floor. She was cold and nodding out on a toilet, so I gave her my coffee and three dollars. I rolled a joint in my own stall then went back to Starbucks to replace the coffee, and she was there at a table (the cup meant the employees could let her stay a while–something I didn’t think about but was grateful for when I saw it).
“I know this is gonna sound crazy, but I write a blog about everything I do instead of killing myself. Can I take a picture with you for it?” But I was starting to cry, and I could feel myself sweating. Where’s-my-next-dose, chemical perspiration.
So I took my damn medicine.
Featured image by Gail Potocki.