Well… It’s About as Bad as a Swift Kick in the Face with a Shoe Made of Broken Glass

I’ve been disconnected for a couple of months, and it’s because I’ve had a lot going on, a lot of changes to handle in a short period.  Some of them are good, and some of them are bad, but all of them are emotionally-charged and challenging and have taken up most of my spare time.  The little time I have had left has usually been spent napping or watching TV because I feel that it’s very important for me to spend at least some of my time being a useless, lazy fuck.  

Unfortunately, there is a fine line between detaching from the world for a little while and isolating, and I realized I was isolating about two weeks in.  I just wasn’t ready to do anything about it.  And I’m still not, but I’m getting worse, so I have to force myself to reach out just a little.  The past week has been a very special brand of terrible, and I can feel the cracks forming.  I know the more I ignore them, the bigger they will grow, until I crumble into a snotty, tear-soaked pile of emotional dust.  If, however, I take on the painful and difficult task of recognizing the cracks and patching them, I can live to have a nervous breakdown another day.  So I am using some of my lazy-fuck-TV-watching time to face the smallest amount of emotion I can and still function in a somewhat-human manner.  That means crying for awhile and hurling invectives at no one in particular and also maybe getting a little drunk.  Nothing too destructive. 

My point here, amidst all the lamenting and bitching, is that it’s important to recognize when you’re doing something that is unhealthy for you  (like isolating and pretending you have a Vulcan-like immunity to feelings) and to pull yourself out of it a little bit at a time.  And if you can’t pick yourself up, then for shit’s sake, ask for help.  I’m very bad at that, but I will do it when I get to the point that I can’t even deal with a trip to the grocery store.  Life can be really great, and it can be really shitty, and then sometimes it goes all great and shitballs all at once, so you don’t even know what you’re supposed to be feeling.  And that’s where I am right now, so I have moments of happiness, followed by moments of grief, and then moments of rage at the grief for intruding on the happiness because I get precious little of that.  It’s been a very bipolar couple of months.

I don’t want to write this.  I don’t want to post it.  I don’t want to talk to anyone or look at what I’m feeling.  But I need to, and life is about doing what’s needed rather than what’s wanted more often than not.   So there it is, just putting it out there so that it’s not locked up inside and eating away at me.  I will end with my all-time favorite quote by Khalil Ghibran: “Out of suffering emerges the strongest souls.  The most massive characters are seared with scars.”  I will have a massive character one of these days, and it will be my badge of honor.

Being Brave

I have felt better lately, more confident, having the courage to finally show my writing– and therefore myself– to the world.  To me, writing is baring the soul, the heart, the very nakedness of myself.  So when I finally started this blog, after years of wanting so desperately to do so but being so deeply terrified of it, I felt a freedom that I cannot compare with anything else in my life.

I felt very alone for the first 31 years of my life.  I was surrounded by people who not only did not understand me but who also used me as a punching bag on which to take out all of their aggression, fear, and sadness.  I don’t know whether that actually caused my depression and anxiety disorder or exacerbated it, but I have lived with those things for as long as I can remember.  I began suffering from insomnia at the age of three, and I first experienced depression while I was still in elementary school.  The anxiety and panic came when my parents separated.  I was twelve when I had my first panic attack.  I was spending the night with my grandparents, and my grandma and I were sharing a bed because I was having trouble sleeping.  I sat bolt upright shortly after laying down, overcome by a sense of pure panic, dread, and terror.  My grandmother was hard-pressed to calm me and get me to sleep.

After this incident, I experienced many, many more, well into my seventeenth year.  I continually asked for help– or for my mother to take me to someone who could help– and was continually dismissed.  At the age of seventeen, I read a magazine article about anxiety/panic disorder and was amazed to see, for the first time, that there was a name for what had been happening to me.  Up until that moment, I had thought I was crazy.  The relief I felt was palpable, followed by anger that no one had listened to me.  That anger still lingers.  Anxiety and panic attacks ruined so much of my teenage years, and it could have been treated had someone had the kindness and patience to listen to me.  Maybe someday the anger will go away, but I am not ready to let go of it yet.

Today, though I no longer suffer from panic attacks (because I had to learn to control them out of necessity), I still suffer from anxiety.  And usually depression goes hand-in-hand with it.  But it is manageable most of the time.  However, it is vital to me that as many people as possible are educated on this subject, if for no other reason than to prevent other young women from feeling completely alone.  Please, please click on the link below.

I watched this ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqu4ezLQEUA ) tonight and was overcome with sadness and poignancy.  It perfectly describes what I went through with my mother as a young woman.  I know her dismissal was borne of ignorance, not lack of caring, but I still ache from it.  If your child or sibling or parent or friend or anyone else ever comes to you with this, do not respond with fear or ignorance or impatience.  Open your arms to them and offer your love and acceptance and any help you can give.  It is so imperative in recovery to not feel alone.  If you are a close friend of mine, you have already seen me suffer through this, and I thank you for standing by me.  I am beyond thankful that I am no longer alone.  I have much to be thankful for today– summer with my children, a new job, and six weeks of full weekends coming up.  In addition to wonderful friends and an amazing husband.  Anxiety and depression do not understand thankfulness, and they don’t realize that they don’t belong where things are good.  So I hold on to the happiness I have today and the hope that my monsters don’t intrude on it.  I want to enjoy my reasons for being thankful.

I know I write a lot about uncomfortable things– reason being that these things need to be brought out of the shadows and into the light.  The stigma needs to be erased so that those who suffer from it no longer have to feel ashamed or guilty or self-conscious.  And remember, if you are one of those who does struggle with depression/anxiety– flare-ups are temporary.  Depression and anxiety lie– do not believe what they tell you.  Hold on to your life and to the ones you love and believe that you will walk through it.  Because you will.  I have survived it enough times to know.  Above all, know you are not alone.  Life is not easy for anyone.  It is more difficult for some than for others.  Today, I am thankful that it isn’t hard.  Today, I will revel in the many reasons I have to be happy.  Because I don’t know when the clouds will come.  I do know, however, that I will walk through them and see the sun again.

My Youngest Brother is Nuttier Than Squirrel Shit

My baby brother was a runt when he was little.  He was a tiny baby and was always the smallest kid in his class– until he hit high school and suddenly turned into G.I. Joe.  I think it may have been his midget-ness, coupled with the never-ending torture that my middle brother and I put him through, that spawned in him a need to prove himself.  And that he did, in every way possible.

A2 (as I have referred to him in previous posts) was the kind of kid who jumped off the top of the jungle gym and on the way down remembered, “Oh yeah, I have to land…”  He was so absent-minded and non-observant that the house once literally almost burned down around him while he obliviously watched TV.  (My mother got out of the shower and walked into the living room, which had completely filled with smoke from a very burnt turkey in the oven, and A2 looked up at her in complete surprise when she shrieked and asked him how in the hell of all shits he hadn’t noticed.)  And he feared nothing.  That is not a good combination.

A2 got stitched back together more times in the first ten years of his life than his brother and I have in all of our years put together up to this point.  The fact that he would eat virtually anything for money provided no end of amusement to A1 and me over the years.  The father of one of his friends once made the mistake of handing him an unopened box of Milk Bones and offering him a dollar for every one he ate.  He ate all thirty-five.  It was this fearlessness and ability to eat things that would kill a normal person that made him a perfect candidate for the military.  And it prepared him well.

Anyone who knows anything about the military knows that, on bivouac, you get nothing but severely rationed rations.  Basically a square of cardboard meat and flammable, powdered creamer twice a day.  After being in the woods for a week, A2 and his guys wandered back onto their base and passed a dumpster.  On top of the trash in the dumpster was a Papa John’s box, and it called to them like a siren.  Upon opening it, they discovered half an  uneaten pizza.  So A2 and his buddies sat down on the ground next to the dumpster and went Godzilla on the trash pizza.  As they were wolfing it down, their CO walked by and gasped in horror when he realized what they were doing.  “What the hell is wrong with you guys??!” he cried.  “I threw that pizza out yesterday!!”

Once on an open-ocean swim, A2 and his swim buddy stopped to tread water for a moment.  “Damn, man, I’m thirsty,” A2 said.  And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than a half-full bottle of Gatorade floated past.  Not bothering to consider how long it might have been floating, or whether he might contract three kinds of hepatitis, A2 promptly downed part of the bottle, then offered the rest to his swim buddy.  He also once ate candy off the ground on the sidewalk.  Opened candy.  He has the immune system of a cyborg and the stomach of a trash compactor.

His next ocean adventure was a little less fortuitous.  He was doing a polar bear swim with the rest of the guys in his troop, and they made a bet to see who could last longest in the icy water.  A2, of course, won.  As he dragged himself back to the beach triumphantly, he realized that he was getting some funny looks.  Finally, he looked down and realized that there was a large and very alive jellyfish wrapped tightly around his calf.  He was so numb from the cold water that he couldn’t feel it.  Prying it off was the stuff of legends.  And now, among his guys, A2 is the stuff of legends.

I like to think that some of the torture A1 and I exposed him to as children helped prepare him for his life in the military.  He does seem to take everything in stride better than most.  Things that would either make me scream in horror or vomit profusely have no effect on him.  I view it as a excellent argument for the validation of shooting your sibling in the nipples with a BB gun for target practice.  Imagine all the times he found himself in a terrible situation and thought, “Well, at least it’s not as bad as getting tagged in the nips with BBs,” or “At least I’m not being force-fed dog poo (go read my previous posts for the story on that one).”  Yup, sibling torture surely made my youngest brother the G.I. Joe lookalike he is today.  You’re welcome, little bro.  I will be a dick for your well-being any day.

How my Husband Became “the Buffalo”

My husband has had many nicknames since we met, but the one that stuck is Buffalo.  This is partly on account of his broad shoulders, narrow hips, and massive amounts of thick hair on his head and chest.  But what really sealed the deal was the day we had a food fight.  One of our food fights.

I was standing at the stove making chicken and dumplings, and Hubby was playing with the kids.   Before I knew what I was doing,  I had pirouetted onto one foot, posed like a Renaissance-style fountain-nymph, and gracefully hurled a spoonful of stew at my husband.  Which landed square in the center of his scalp, dripping bits of chicken and doughy dumpling onto his face and beard.  My three children immediately collapsed into uproarious hysterics, and my husband charged at me and managed to shove a fistful of stew down the back of my pants before I could escape, gluing my crack together very effectively.  But the best part– the part where I laughed so hard that I literally hyperventilated and gagged on my own saliva– came when he tried to shower off. 

My poor, chicken-and-dumplings-covered husband went to wash the food from his hair and face.  He’d been in the shower for about two minutes when the kids and I were rendered suddenly silent by the sound of a distinctly high-pitched scream and lots of crashing from the bathroom.   We all ran to the door, banging on it and yelling,  “ARE YOU OKAY???!!”  My husband didn’t respond for a moment, and we started to panic. Then the door was wrenched open, and he stood holding the bathroom rug in front of him like a shield.  He pushed past us and laid it out on the floor.

“Look,” he said, pointing.   And there on the rug was a perfect human outline.  

“What the hell did you do??!” I exclaimed.

And he proceeded to explain that, while showering the bits of stew from his hair, they had collected in the bottom of the bathtub and formed a slippery film.  So when he spun around to reach for the loofah, he lost traction completely and flew out of the tub, through the shower curtain, and landed flat on his back on the rug, head twisted to the side and arm flung over his head, legs up over his face.  Which accounted for the screaming and crashing.  He said that, flying through the air, he immediately panicked that he would land on the toilet and break his back or fatally injure his “man stuff” or die of a terrible head injury.  When he landed, unhurt, he was instantly furious that I had put him in that position but also thanked his lucky stars that he wasn’t dead in a humiliating bathroom accident.  As he stood up, he saw the exquisite silhouette he’d made and knew we’d never believe it if we didn’t see it.
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As he stood proudly over his body-artwork, I clutched my stomach and doubled over laughing, eventually collapsing onto my knees as tears ran down my face.  “You’re a fucking buffalo!” I gasped between laughter and hiccups.  “You crash into everything, and you’re hairy and loud!!”  I couldn’t pull myself together, picturing my poor Buffalo flying through the air and landing with his naked ass in the air, shrieking like a banshee.  I eventually gave up staying upright and rolled into a ball on my side, laughing until I grew light-headed.  From that moment,  my husband’s official nickname became Buffalo, and it has stuck for four years.  He’s hairy and loud and temperamental, and you do not want to get in his way when he’s stampeding.  But he’s also gentle and loving and protective, and he’s mine.  And that glorious rug-silhouette is proof that he will forgive me for just about anything,  even when it makes him scream in a distinctly unmanly fashion.

I Am the World’s Biggest Wuss

I once sat in the garage for an hour and a half, waiting for my husband to get home, after watching a Ghost Adventures documentary during which my dishwasher inexplicably kicked on by itself.  It’s true– there is no bigger scaredy cat on earth.  Except for possibly my mother, but now that she’s gone, I’m the reigning queen.  I often think that may be why she doesn’t haunt me– she would scare the shit out of herself.  Don’t get me wrong,  she does visit me, but only in dreams.  I think she’s too scared of catching a glimpse of her own ghost in the mirror to drop by when I’m awake.

The first– and only– time I convinced her to watch a scary movie with me was one of the most memorable and craptastic episodes of my youth.  I was twelve years old, and Candyman had just been released at the theater.   My parents were going through a divorce at the time, and my mom and I were having a girls’ night while my brothers were kickin’ it with our dad in only the way that six- and nine-year old boys can kick it.  So when my mom asked how I wanted to spend the evening, rather than going Godzilla on a gallon of double fudge ice cream and watching Thelma and Louise for the fiftieth time, I suggested we be a bit more adventurous. 

After much, much begging and pleading, I somehow persuaded my mom– a woman who couldn’t watch Ghostbusters because it “startled her”– to take me to see Candyman. I succeeded in this endeavor by looking her straight in the face and telling her it was a John Candy comedy.  She loved John Candy, and the lie made sense with the movie title.  I shrugged away any guilt I may have felt by reminding myself that I needed an adult to get me into the R-rated movie anyway.  And my dear, sweet, naive mother sat through the entire movie with her eyes scrunched shut and her fingers stuffed in her ears, periodically reaching over to smack me and yell, “You said it was a comedy!!”

Despite not actually watching any of the movie, and only hearing incoherent pieces of it, my mother was a quivering slice of wussy pie by the time we left the theater.  When we got home, she refused to look in any of the many many mirrors she liked to decorate with because the premise of the movie– spoiler alert!– was that the Candyman would appear behind you and eviscerate you with his hook-hand if you looked in the mirror and said his name three times.

“Moooooommmmm,” I whined as she steered me down the hallway towards her room, at the end of which hung an octagonal mirror,  “you shouldn’t be scared!  You have to say his name three times and then he kills you.” 

“Stop talking about it!” she shrieked.  “You made me see a horror movie!  This is the price you pay!”

“Yeah, well, you didn’t actually see any of it with your eyes shut,” I muttered.  So I penitently sat on the edge of the bathtub, guarding my mom from the wall-length mirror as she brushed her teeth and got ready for bed.  When she appeared to have calmed down a little, I walked into the adjoining bedroom to call my boyfriend. 

I was in the midst of telling him about our night, laughing at my mom and bragging on my own courage when I heard a sound coming from under the bed.  I stopped mid-sentence to listen.  It was a kind of scratchy, shuffling sound, kind of like a racoon neatly stacking paper plates but failing miserably because it’s a racoon.  

“Helllooooo?” my boyfriend said on the phone.

“Sssshhh!  Hang on!” I whispered sort of loudly to really be whispering.

Apparently I wasn’t as brave as I thought because what happened next was an absolute shit storm.  I heard the sound again, louder this time.  My mom poked her head around the doorway to see why I was suddenly so quiet.  At that moment,  the sort-of-quiet-and-just-a-little-bit-creepy sound from under the bed turned into a HUGELY LOUD ripping sound, like claws shredding heavy fabric  (which is exactly what it was), and I lost any and all capacity for composure.  What followed went something like this:

HUGE TERRIBLE RIPPING SOUND THAT CAN ONLY PRECEDE HORRIBLE, BLOODY DEATH AT THE HOOK-HANDS OF MONSTROUS DEMONS

Me: Screaming in abject hysterics as though I am actually being stabbed repeatedly.

Mom: Startled by the demon sounds and my hysterical screaming also begins screaming wildly at the top of her lungs.

Me: Looking desperately for a new escape route, pinned against the wall by the bed on one side and my mom on the other, still screaming insanely.

Mom:  Rushing me in panic, clutching at my shoulders and trying in vain to climb me like a tree, still screaming the entire time.

Me:  Struggling now to escape not only the demon but also my spider monkey of a mother, can think of nothing to do but start frantically trying to scale the sheet rock of the bedroom wall.  Still screaming.

Mom:  Finally regains the capacity for speech and shrieks, “WHAT THE HELL ARE WE SCREAMING ABOUT???!!”

Me: Watches in dismay, still mid-scream, still trying desperately to climb the wall,  as the cat rockets out from under the bed.  Sinking feeling hits as I realize that I am exactly as much of a wuss as my mother.  Still screaming.

Mom:  “WHAT THE HELL ARE WE SCREAMING ABOUT??!”

Me:  “THE CAT MADE A WEIRD NOISE!!!”

Screaming stops.  Mom stops using me as a very ineffectual ladder.  Looks at me with that you-are-in-so-much-mother-fucking-goddamned-trouble-young-lady look that only mothers do so well and stalks from the room to regain her composure.  Reconsiders navigating the dark hallway by herself, comes back and grabs me, and pushes me in front of her all the way back to the living room.  Pretty sure cops have already been dispatched by neighbors who couldn’t possibly have not heard our hysterical and insane screaming.

I learned something about my mother that night, as well as about myself.  While I was trying to pretend to be brave and strong, my mom knew her limits and didn’t push them (though she loved me enough to let me push them).  I also learned that cats, when subjected to prolonged and hysterical screaming, tend to vomit hairballs in your bedroom doorway during the night so that you step in them barefoot the next morning.  Because cats are assholes.

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Mom and me, circa 1995