To the Grind

Some days, all I have for the world is, Well, I’m not going to commit suicide today. That’s what I can do. And then I treat myself like I’m very incompetent and get through the day.
Welcome to today, tribal loves. My head is a jumble, a mean mine field detonating in chorus. In an hour I’m supposed to be at work where I haven’t been all week, because I’ve been feverish with a more feverish child to care for. Parents have dropped off Gatorade and Ramen at the door (no Plague for them), peanut butter and milk once we were past the hump of the virus. I have hardly seen any humans other than my sick kiddo and his dad on Monday. And my therapist.
I thought therapy was great yesterday, then I realized that I tricked my therapist into believing the dramatic love-shit coming off my tongue was the most important thing I could talk about yesterday in her office.
Here is the light inside, and I have to touch it now or I won’t make it today:
I know that when I get there, it’s going to be all right. I know that communing is what I do, and it’s Friday. We’ll play music in the cathedral on the jukebox, later on the stage. I will be as gentle with myself and others today as I need them to be with me, and we’re all going to wake up tomorrow.
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An Open Letter to My New Neighbors

Fellow Tenants:

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.

 

Right Now, I Need My Meds

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).

50449628_1423630437778610_5834505293983121408_nWhat 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.

crying into plathThe 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).

48366241_10218915901996342_1656540466268602368_n“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.

12/6/18

Grace is waking up as late as your dizzy, dizzy head needs to and knowing that a stream of angels will pass through today, that your bar manager is getting your day covered for tomorrow so you can move out of your apartment on time. It’s relocating your three customers on yesterday’s shift (favorites all–trusted–five years ago you lied and said you were a niece to one [you and another bartender who has resurfaced too] so you could visit him in the ER after he fell off his bar stool) to the far side of the bar so you could share the small space heater on the counter away from the doors. Love is when one sunbeam fought through the awful December sky and landed all over you and you caught one of them seeing you bask in it without any objectification fucking up the warmth.
 
This is what it looks like when your circle knows you’re tired. They carry you.
 
Your mother packed your boxes while you practiced the tease with Old Man _____ at the bar. Sometimes you held his hands on the counter. He’s a kind old man who hugs you and tells you to be careful when he leaves always. He’s the one who fell all those years ago. This, too, is love and grace.
 
You spent as much in the jukebox as you made in tips, but you made it through and home. That’s what counts on those days.
 
Today is different. Better and just starting. I could die this afternoon, but I probably won’t. The fact that I can even type that out means I’m wandering out into thinner trees. My Tribe will come like they said they would, and somehow this will get done.

This Is a Controlled Burn

Drive your children 400 miles away because they want to go back to their fathers. You understand and want it for them, too. Flames have licked through the plaster walls you’ve all been living between, and it’s time to go.

So you drive down Saturday morning. Leave late to avoid the rain, and because none of you can really get your shit together. You make it, though, and you still know this is right. But you sob when you leave the first daughter. Fucking bawl but not in front of her.

Number two is easier, because you’ve been slow-drip delivering a telephone soliloquy to that one’s other parent for months.

I’m not sure this is good for her. I want it to be, but it might not.

I’m trying. I think she hates me, and I get it.

You’re better at this with her than I am.

This one has complications, but there’s less fear in it. Because you’ve been to court for her, and you know the steps to How We Got Here This Time. This goodbye is like dancing. She hugs you and hangs on; you both smile and sway.

Sunday’s departure becomes Monday–you barely slept after you left your daughters. Drive straight to work and spend seven hours talking with your mother and customers at the bar you work at (again). She’s there (for an hour)  because she knows you’ve slept less than seven hours since you woke up on Saturday. You’ve driven 800 miles and are wearing a Ralph Lauren t-shirt from Goodwill that you picked up on the way in, because you didn’t bring enough clothes with you over the weekend (see Paragraph II above, RE: Shit Not Together).

After she leaves, your regulars treat you kindly (they usually do), but you really don’t feel like talking, so you find reasons to walk away. There are dishes to wipe, ketchup bottles to bring to the grill next door.

Go home and see more evidence of how surrounded you are by grace. Your mother has packed half of your kitchen and the bedrooms your daughters don’t live in anymore for you while you’ve been away. Somehow you’re going to move into a new apartment by Friday, and you know you will because you’ve finally started telling the people around you that you’re Not Okay At Present.

Today’s eyes look less like bruises than yesterday’s. You haven’t taken your medicine yet because it’s in the car, and it’s so cold outside. You don’t feel ready for that yet. You’ll get it soon, though, and swallow it. Then you’ll start doing the Things You Need To Do Today.

The Green Current (Pritzker and Weed)

Midterm elections are over. Blue Waves, Red Tsunamis–whatever they were or wanted to be–saturated pre-Tuesday headlines, but the Green Current of medical and recreational cannabis floated to the top of a few states’ polls. This Forbes story gives a nice surface view of the big wins, from municipal decriminalization in Ohio towns to Michigan going recreational statewide.

Here in Illinois, we elected a new governor: J.B. Pritzker. I have a J.B. story. It goes like this:

I stood behind J.B. Pritzker at a rally for higher education funding in Springfield one time. I didn’t know who he was, but he seemed pretty all right. Then he won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, said he’d legalize recreational weed, and got elected.

18121684_10213607050798380_4787220444974180777_o

Soon-to-be-Governor Pritzker in Springfield, IL when I had no idea who he was until he spoke during the rally I was photographing for a university marketing gig I fail/learn a lot at. If you would like to turn him into Weed Jesus using your bad-ass Photoshop/whatever-suite-you-use-now skills for me, I will proof and edit some writing for you. Or write you a very mediocre poem on any topic you’d like.

So happy day, Illinois stoners (and cancer patients, poor people, incarcerated ones, and accidentally suicidal ex junkies–and congrats to everyone who will benefit from the cannabis industry that’s about to boom)! The headline:

Pritzker wants to legalize recreational marijuana ‘nearly right away’ in Illinois

Go to :40 and watch from there if you’re too impatient or hate Fox News a lot and feel dirty watching so you want to  get it over with fast, then read this Onion piece on Jeff Sessions.

(In a perfect world, Illinois will go legal on St. Patrick’s Day. We’ll all have a party then. Dye the river green and storm Cricket Hill on the lakefront to lay in early spring grass. Windy City Weed Fest, you were so lovely until the radio station got its hands on you. Read the second comment.)

Microdosing Mushrooms Hooray!

Happy Friday, loves. I woke up to an article about the government uncoiling slightly (maybe) on the medicinal virtues of psychedelic drugs.

“The FDA’s dueling portrayals of psilocybin as a scary fungal neurotoxin and a promising treatment for depression are part of a broader story about forbidden drugs, including MDMAmarijuana, and LSD, whose benefits scientists are once again studying with government approval after decades of neglect.”

Pure smiles.

It’s cold here in the suburbs today, but I have my kitchen window open a few inches anyhow. It’s become my morning ritual, part of the elusive and over-spoken-of “new normal” I keep trying to find. Right now, it’s this: two cups of coffee at my kitchen table after the girls have gone to school, and I roll the baby joint I’ll puff on for the day and start it. The youngest sleeps through this usually, and I use this time to organize my day.

I have an anxious mind. Some pieces of paper say I have a panic disorder; some say bipolar II. I say, I’m a part of the Sad Tribe. I say, sometimes if I get too cold, my brain will think we’re dying and send the fight-or-flight cocktail through me. Words float inside of me in water, and sometimes the current moves so quickly that there’s only noise. Whatever it is, I have a piece of paper, too, that says chronic PTSD on it, and the right strain of cannabis allows me to slow the stream.

And I am so grateful that I can do this without legal or psychological risk (All that talk about self-medicating? It’s true. We do that. And I’ve been self-medicating with cannabis since I was 13.). Sativas stoke my anxiety–Green Crack made me sob. High THC indica strains, preferably with a significant smidge of CBD, are my medicine. Gelato, Berry White, my childhood favorite Northern Lights–these are my current loves.

So here’s to a little more possibility in the world today–maybe psychedelics are next. Maybe as medical cannabis becomes more and more talked about and legitimized, the path will get cleared for other natural medicines to come back. The anecdotal evidence on microdosing (thanks to pioneers like James Fadiman) is encouraging.

(I thought about telling you all the story about the time I tried microdosing for mental health but just tripped on accident and then on purpose until it was all gone. But that’s kind of it. I’ll tell it another time. Hockey made me laugh hard.)