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.

Therapy Thursday

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.