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.

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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.

Mission 1.0

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.

 

 

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.

OMG. WTF, Me?

If my daughter stands any chance of surviving her sexual trauma, I have to deal with my own.

Yesterday I hung on the neck of an abuser I love like fireworks. The only maniac who would huff gasoline with  me in ___________’s basement when we were kids. An ex-roommate who threw his lit cigarette at me the night after he (date? friend? roommate?)raped me and claimed he did it in his sleep. The cigarette, not the sex.

He walked in where I work right now–a cavernous “sports” bar that rarely has more than ten customers on the day shift unless you count the quiet stream of gamblers who sit on the four machines along the front wall and bother no one. The Greek owner never pops for any pay-per-view, the huge screen on the wall rarely has anything projected onto it, and all the liquor bottles have electronic collars that tie each pour to the register and measure them out.

46710486_320250828569764_1928844206038581248_n

This isn’t what bartenders at sports bars dress like.

I’m here because I’m on leave but need a tether to the outside world. FMLA days from a university job that I NEVER should have taken, except I learned a ton and–whatever. I went publicly insane for a while. Again.

Here, we are.

When my Shouldn’t Be Friend walked in, I hugged him like I was surrendering. I didn’t mean to. I hung like death on him, limp, because we haven’t seen each other in a year, and the way I’ve always dealt with this particular pain is to never try to see him but allow myself to take advantage of it when The Universe throws us back together. So I did.

This morning I’m sobbing. I’ve been in my bathroom with my hair pulled back, searching for a hair tie but spotting scissors. Walking out, then back again.

This is the kind of pacing I don’t want anyone to ever see, the physical manifestation of too-much-happening-in-my-head. Boyfriend did one time. It was just a glimpse, but I heard the catch and dawning in his voice when he saw it (it elicited tenderness ultimately, not a break-up, but I felt him seeing me–I think it startled him).

I swallowed a dozen pills in that apartment, the cigarette one. I don’t remember trying to die; I just wanted to go to sleep. We lived next door to rock stars, played poker with matches pilfered from another roommate’s diner job. I called ___________ and told him what had happened. He came and sat on our third-floor porch stairs that night, but he kept being Friends with him. And so did I.

I won’t write my child’s story here; I can only tell my own. Part of my story is learning how to safely mother a sexually traumatized child.

Yesterday was a gorgeous, terrible lesson. I have to deal with my own shit. FML.