It’s the middle of the night and I’m awake again and I need to pee but the dog is laying on my leg and she’s breathing hard, those quick, hard puppy breathes that mean she’s sleeping soundly and I don’t want to wake her. We don’t all need to be awake. We don’t all need to be prowling around the house in the middle of the night.
I’m two books in to this semester and I’m having bad dreams. Maybe not bad dreams, but certainly strange ones. Dreams about ghosts, and kudzu, and pits that are black and don’t end. I’m dreaming about the Civil War and death, and I’m seeing relics from another time.
I’m fighting back a bout of lows that always comes this time of year, but some years I don’t have the time for it to come and this is week two of my MFA program and I’m two books in, 10 articles, three discussions, a handful of Zoom calls, and I’m tired. I want to sleep most of the day because I’m awake most of the night and this cloud is following me around but I’m managing. And I’ll manage. Until I won’t anymore.
It’s another 4:00 am post. I’ve been waking up each night at 3:00 am, and tossing and turning, waiting patiently to fall back to sleep. Last night I read, tonight I’ll write. Maybe tomorrow I’ll just stare blankly at the cracks of light in the curtains until my eye lids get heavy and my breathing slows.
Yesterday would have been my daughter’s ninth birthday. I’m supposed to have a daughter. Jackson is supposed to have a little sister. She should be nine. Playing Minecraft with her brother, asking for dolls, crazy over the Korean pop bands, or maybe just learning how to braid her own hair. I don’t know. I don’t know what daughters do, or like, or how they live.
Tonight I’m stuck in this same spot. I’ve been here before. I’ll be here again. The weather is changing. There’s are two storms coming up the Gulf. And I just don’t know what daughters do. I’m sure I’ll get more time to think about it. I hope I’ll get more time to think about it. Just not at 4:00 am.
My husband’s birthday is approaching. He turns 39 on August 5th, and we absolutely celebrate birthday weeks around here, so technically we start celebrating this week! I am so excited because I have some things cooking (no literally, eww, I hate cooking) and I am hoping it all falls into place. Jackson has been particularly pumped about Daddy’s birthday week, even picking out a few gifts himself, and readying himself to spend some quality time with Daddy, not playing video games, so you know he is serious. Of course this is the last good week of the year for me, so I’m trying to go all out.
August usually creeps up on me from out of nowhere and this year is no different. In fact, it’s really surprising because it just doesn’t feel like it should be August already, but here we are. August starts out great with Jerimiah’s birthday week, but then it goes downhill fast. August is the month that my daughter was born. The month she died. August starts school. Usually I’m sad to send Jackson back. This year of course he isn’t technically leaving me, which is cool, but usually it makes me even more sad. Then comes my birthday, which ehh, it used to be exciting but I turn 39 on September 10th, and for some reason 39 is scaring me, not empowering me. I am working on it.
Then it’s Jackson’s birthday on October 1st, so I get a little excited again, then comes fall. And with fall usually comes a cloudy depression that takes me a few months to get out of. It’s like I have to work so hard to make it from August 6th to October 2nd, that I finally breakdown. Ugh. I know, I know, if you know this Missy then why don’t you take some proactive measures? I do. Trust. This is Missy doing well.
So that’s where we are. Back at the end of July. Back at wondering where our summer went. Where this horrible fucking year went. Knowing as bad as it was, it still wasn’t the worst year I’ve ever had. All that knowing. All that thinking. Well, I’m ready to party for the next week anyway!
Patsy asked me to do something yesterday that felt very odd, at first. Patsy is my therapist and I like her a lot, and I was telling her yesterday that I am in a bad place right now. I can’t sleep. I’ve lost motivation. I’m moving quickly toward a bout with depression, and of course I’ve done all I’m supposed to do. I’m working out three to four days a week. I’m taking my pills. I’m eating well. I’m taking walks. I’m trying to write. I have no “real” worries right now. My husband is employed. My son is doing well. But for some reason, I can’t get it together. My anxiety is peaking. Patsy asked me about my anxiety. Why is it bothering you now? She wanted to know. She started talking about my anxiety as it wasn’t a part of me, but rather a separate entity that was preying on me. It felt weird.
Next she asked me to close my eyes and envision the anxiety. What did it look like? What did it sound like? What, most importantly, did it want from me? Of course this was all over Zoom. We still aren’t meeting face to face because Coronavirus, so it wasn’t working as she liked. She instead told me to find a quiet place later and do this activity. Write it down if I needed to. Try to figure out what the anxiety needs. Open a line of communication. It sounded a bit bizarre, but I trust Patsy. Moreover, as soon as she said that looking at your anxiety as a separate entity can sometimes help, without even thinking much about it, this image popped into my head. Like she was still talking about this process. About EMDR, trauma patients, etc, and I was already envisioning the way my anxiety looks, acts, feels, reacts to my questioning.
So later I did what Patsy suggested. I drew a picture of an office chair. Fun and funky. Bright colors and a nifty pattern. I then closed my eyes and envisioned that I asked the Anxiety to come and sit with me. And well, he did.
He’s not very pretty, is he? He’s a he. Of course he is. I can’t really describe him. I tried to describe him to Jerimiah, and the best I could come up with is that he is a blob of chaos. Very dark. Bright eyes. So there he is. He doesn’t have a name, he doesn’t deserve one. He’s just Anxiety, and he’s a real asshole.
Turns out he feeds on worry, uncertainty, and chaos. He gropes me. Attacks me. Latches on to me when things seem to be going okay on the outside. He relies on lies. He relies on uncertainty to get me down. He’s very good at what he does. He is swift. He’s always around waiting to be fed.
I’m sure there is more to this exercise, and once I can get back into the office with Patsy I’ll ask her to walk me through it, but this is as far as I got today. I’m not sure I want to venture further in without her. But I did want to share with you all, because the biggest take away I got from this was that Anxiety comes and goes, but does not define me. He is mean. He is hurtful. He causes chaos, but he is not me. I am not him. And I guess I’ll keep fighting him, probably forever, but at least now I know who I am fighting.
I hope you all know who is with you and against you, today. What is with you, what is against you.
You know when you’re deciding what to order for dinner and you snap at your husband when he asks a simple question, so you just log onto the Del Taco app and order $50 worth of burritos then storm out the door, then get upset when you get there and text him to tell him you’re sorry and he’s all, it’s okay. I know you’re under a lot of stress right now, and I love you. And you realize you don’t deserve a guy who loves you so much and you start to wonder why he puts up with your particular brand of crazy and then the line isn’t moving and it’s been thirty minutes since you placed your order and a car three cars back starts to honk at no one in particular and it makes you so angry that you start crying then suddenly you realize you’re crying alone in your car on a Tuesday night at 8:30 in the Del Taco drive-thru and all you can think is how nuts you probably look, and that your therapist would be worried about you, and then you pull up and Kiona, the woman working the window, sees you and she’s all Girl, you look like you need some extra tacos, and you’re cry-smiling as you thank her and then you drive home and your husband greets you with a hug and your tacos are good and you go to bed early because life is rough and you know you’ll feel better in the morning? You know? Your know what I mean?
Yeah, you know what I mean.
Girl, you look like you need some extra tacos. And maybe a nap. Go take a nap. You’ll feel better when you wake up. Then call me. I’m around.
Click, click. Tap, tap. Sploot.Click, click, click… These are the noises I hear at night when I am trying to fall asleep. I’ll be so close to sleep. My eyes closed, rolling back toward my brain from under my lightly pulled lids, then I will hear it. The click or the tap or the sploot. I open my eyes wide, cock my head to the side, grab hold of my husband’s sleeping arm. Do you hear that, I’ll whisper. He will respond in a snore. I’ll move my eyes toward the ceiling, imagine a squirrel scampering quickly over the layers of pine needles I haven’t willed myself to clean. It must be squirrels, I think. Then I lay my head back on my pillow, close my eyes, and try again.
I hear the noises, but the truth is, they aren’t there. They are part of a dreamlike state I get to before I fall over the cliff into dreams, into tossing and turning, sweating myself awake. The noises aren’t real, that’s why my husband doesn’t hear them, why my dogs are never jumping around barking. There is not really a click, or a tap, or a sploot. It’s all in my head.
This happens to me in times of stress. I hear things that aren’t real. Bacon sizzling in a pan. A wayward footstep. For years my doctors have blamed it on my medication. Auditory hallucinations they call it. Here, try this new pill instead. Only it isn’t the medication. The medication is doing it’s job. It is making me function all day. Allowing me to smile, even when I don’t want to. Allowing me to stay focused and motivated. But at night, when my brain is refusing to collapse into sleep, when the stress of the day catches up to me, then I’m on my own.
And all I can think right now, today as I wait to fall asleep in a cocoon of safety, my home alarm set, my husband sleeping quietly next to me, my son tucked safely in his bed, my two overly-anxious dogs at my feet, all I can think is, if I’m hearing clicks, taps, and sploots, what are other people hearing?
I’m a shower shaver. Always have been. I remember learning to shave my legs in a tub of luke-warm water, after years of being tormented about my long, black leg hair by my sister, while my mother refused to let me near a razor. I was in fifth grade when I eventually stole my mom’s razor, sat in a tub for much longer than I should have and contemplated it. Then I just did it. My mom got mad. My sister laughed. I was bleeding from knee to ankle, but I was proud, so proud of my smooth legs. Now I wish I had never picked up a razor.
Shaving my legs, tweezing my eyebrows, waxing my mustache, Jesus, I’m so over all of it. I wish I was so body positive that I could stand proudly and say, Fuck you, World! While I flip the world the bird, and my mustache blows in the wind like Tom Selleck’s. But alas, I succumb to societal beauty standards, well some of them, like waxing, shaving, plucking, and zapping unwanted hair. Bleh.
The day we signed the papers on our current home my vision was clouded by the master bathroom. It’s beautiful. Small, but mighty. There’s only one small vanity and a toilet, but there is this wonderful shower! It is all glass, with stone floors (the bathroom itself has heated floors), and artful tile work throughout. It is floor to ceiling and has all the fancy accouterments that a shower should have. And it’s huge! It easily fits Jerimiah and me. Or Duke and Jackson and me, when we are in swimsuits trying to scrub mud from Duke’s legs while he attempts to run through the small opening that we leave in the door to let the smell of wet dog escape. It’s perfect.
But the first time I took a shower in it I realized there was nowhere for this shower-shaver to stick her legs when I shaved. It needed a bench. So I did what anyone would do, I hopped out of the shower, threw clothes on, ran to Homegoods, and bought a bamboo shower bench. Perfect. Except, well, today was the first time since I owned the bamboo bench the I actually sat on it to shave my legs.
Listen, I’m a creature of habit. Years and years of awkwardly standing in the tub, with my leg perched on the edge has made me think this is the only way. So the first time I shaved my legs with my bamboo bench in place, I just stuck my leg up on the bench and shaved standing up like usual. Then I kept doing it.
Don’t get me wrong, I use the bench. I sit on it regularly while the hot water from my raindrop faucet drips onto my head and I think about the world. I cry on my bamboo bench. A lot. Y’all know I’m a shower cryer, I don’t have time to defend that. I cried on that bamboo shower bench the first week we lived here because I missed Charlotte and I didn’t want to live in Georgia. I cried that summer when my son was sad that we didn’t have any friends yet. I cried when my friend called with bad news about her parents. I sat on the bamboo bench and cried when that student opened fire on the UNC Charlotte campus. When they couldn’t find that little boy with autism for days. I cried on that bamboo bench when I thought we were going to be transferred to New Orleans. I cried when my son cried when a friend was being bullied at school and he realized he needed to stick up for her. I cried when the spring tornadoes sprang up the Midwest, when we had to cancel our trip home because Covid-19 was here. I cried for Ahmaud Arbery, for my state, for our country, for this world.
But today, for the first time in a year, I sat on that bamboo bench and I shaved my legs. I let the water fall on me. I didn’t cry. I just sat and shaved. I wondered about all the times I should have done this before. All the times I let my own stubbornness stop me from doing things. My own stubbornness, my own ignorance, my own self-doubt. I thought about shower-shavers. I thought about women who wish they had clean water. I thought about women who refuse to shave their legs and under arms. I thought about little girls with no mother to teach her how to do it. I thought about the good I have learned by others, but society, by my environment, and my world. And then I thought about the bad. But I didn’t cry, I just shaved my legs.
One of the first stories I read in a college lit class was “The Yellow Wall Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and I’ve always remembered it. If you haven’t had the pleasure, please partake. It is a short story full of madness and powerlessness, a true Gothic Lit masterpiece in my opinion. And since it was published in 1892, there’s the whole portrayal of female oppression and societal expectations, you know early feminism. Good. Good. Good.
In short, the woman in the story is sent to a house for a “rest cure,” you know, she’s mentally unstable and her doctor/husband thinks she needs sunlight and rest, because that’ll fix ya right up, when really she just needed to stab her doctor/husband. Anywho, she starts to actually go crazy cause he keeps her in one room. The room has, you guessed it, yellow wallpaper. And as the days go on, and she starts to really lose her shit, the wallpaper “changes,” and suddenly she thinks she’s trapped in the wallpaper! Haha. What a silly girl!
Missy, why you telling us this? Listen, y’all I’m way into wallpaper right now. I’m not sure what sparked it, but I’ve been researching it, perusing wallpaper sites, googling things about how many square feet one roll can cover, etc. etc. I’m on a mission to wallpaper my office and I’m pretty close to figuring this whole thing out. But I think what is really happening is that I’m pretty close to losing my shit. I think it falls in line with me not dealing with the real shit of the world right now, sorta like if I keep my mind and fingers busy on a project, I can forget the world is horrible. Yeah, that’s it!
But even as I lay in bed at night and envision my dream accent wall, or a wallpaper shop that lets you design your own wallpaper, I still can’t shake the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” her plight, her mental health, her asshole husband. Her life is wrapping itself up in mine alright. And yeah, I get the irony. The undertones. The whole shebang. But I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not buying damn yellow wallpaper.
Soooo, how’s everyone doing? Me? Oh well, thanks for asking. I’m sitting here at my desk, staring out my window at the beautiful sunny skies, listening to the birds chirping and the cars whizzing by wondering why in the hell you would actually go eat INSIDE a Waffle House today?! Yep. Uh huh. Welcome to Georgia. Where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. But, to be fair, it’s more than just the Waffle House opening up, it’s also bowling alleys and theaters. And if you do have the emotional or mental capacity to leave your house for dinner and a movie (who are these people, and what kind of anti-depressants are they on?!) then you know you are safe because you they can only sit four deep at the Waffle House counter. Whew, glad someone is taking this all seriously.
Also, just so we are clear, the servers are wearing gloves and masks at the Waffle House, but can I be real for a minute? Shouldn’t the servers at the Waffle House ALWAYS be wearing masks and gloves? I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I like more than drinking so much gin that my inhibitions are way, way down, then getting turnt on some OJ and fried eggs at the Waffle House. In fact, 20-something Missy lived and died by WH. But, umm, I still always knew I ran the risk of picking up Hep-b in the bathroom while I was there, and I still used caution. Now you throw in a global pandemic and whaazzzzy, whaazzzzy, wha?!
I’m picking on the WH here but it’s because this is Georgia and people literally cried when the WH closed up shop last month, but truly this is the nuttiest thing I have seen in a while. People actually leaving their house, amid 23,500 cases in our state, with nearly 1,000 deaths, and hitting up the movies and going bowling. Like, I just don’t get it. And the beaches, please don’t get me started with the beaches. Y’all know we love to travel. In fact, I’m simultaneously planning three vacations in my mind right now (a trip “home,” a trip to Southern Cali, and a long weekend in Savannah) but you can bet your ass I haven’t actually booked any airfare, or started looking at hotels. Because shit, y’all. It’s gonna be awhile.
I know there are people who are just trying to get back to work. I know that. Small business owners, or you know, Shake Shack, are really trying to cash in on that money, but it isn’t coming. But to be fair, aren’t their employees making more money on unemployment right now, then if they were working? And don’t they have a “rainy day” fund? Like, certainly they don’t want the government to keep bailing them out, that’s, that’s, SOCIALISM!
I think I’m gonna stop. Take some deep breathes. Pour myself a glass of wine at three o’clock in the afternoon, and sit on the deck and listen to the birds. And the squeal of the tires in and out of the local Waffle House. Be safe, y’all. And STAY THE FUCK AT HOME.
I had a breakdown the other day. It had been stewing for days. I felt it, as one does, gaining momentum with each thing I did. I had to wash the dishes by hand (because the dishwasher is broken) and I cut my hand. Then I started to make lunch and I spilled the sauce. Then I dropped my phone. Then, then, then… Shit hit the fan. Finally I decided I was not doing a damn thing for the rest of the day. I was going to park it on the couch and watch a wildly entertaining documentary. So that’s what I started to do, then things got complicated.
I choose “McMillions.” Jerimiah was sitting next to me, trying to figure out my mood, but I didn’t say a word. Jackson came downstairs from doing school work and asked if I would ride bikes with him. Nah, dawg. I told him. I’m not feeling bikes. Then I immediately felt bad and tried to compromise. I asked if he wanted to take a walk. No, he didn’t. He just wanted to ride his scooter alone outside, so Jerimiah and started the show. A couple minutes later I started to feel like a shitty mom, as one does. I couldn’t concentrate on the show. I could only worry that he would talk to some random person walking down our cul-de-sac. Or that he would fall and hurt himself, which meant I’d have to take him to the ER, which is bad news bears right now, considering they are literally turning out conference center into a makeshift hospital. (We will be at 20,000 Covid-19 cases before the week is up.)
Then I heard him talking and asked Jerimiah to check on him. When he did, Jackson came to the door (he had been talking to Siri, telling her to change songs) and then I overheard Jackson say to Jerimiah, “Tell Mommy we can go on a walk now.” At this point it had been a good thirty minutes of me stewing in place, while this show played in front of me. Thinking about how horrible of a mom I am, how my son wanted to spend time with me and I didn’t oblige. Instead I watched television. Then my guilt turns to anger as it ALWAYS does, and I reacted way too strongly.
Jerimiah came back in and I said, “I can’t believe he wants to walk now! I offered that up half an hour ago!”
Jerimiah listened politely, as he does, and suggested we do take a walk because it might be good for all of us. The sun was setting fast at this point, so I mumbled something about “It’s gonna be dark soon,” then went upstairs to put real clothes on, not pajamas. Meanwhile he tried to get the dogs leashed up, since they had heard the word “Walk” one too many times and were freaking out.
When I came down Jerimiah told me that Duke was refusing his harness, and I may have screamed, “LEAVE HIS ASS HOME!” I was totally spiraling out at this point. Jerimiah was like, okay, and we walked outside. There we were met with Jackson and some “scooter” issues and I was like, “You’re the one who wanted to go for a walk!” And I could see the tears start to well up in his eyes and I thought “SHIIIIIT!” But instead of apologizing right then, I let us all go with me into this spiral.
Duke was barking at us from inside so Jerimiah asked if he should go try again with the harness and I said, “Sure!” In a really high-pitched, super fake-singing kinda way. Jackson knew the situation at this point and was looking upset. Duke wouldn’t cooperate and when I saw Jerimiah walking down the drive I knew he was now as angry as me, meanwhile Jackson was on the verge of tears, meanwhile I was totally at the bottom. So we walked.
One cul-de-ac over Jackson broke down. He was telling me that he was sorry he had ruined the evening, and I thought, “Holy hell, Missy you are legit the worst mom on the damn planet.” We stood there in the road as I hugged him and told him that I had been a mess all day and none of this was his fault. Then we walked more.
When we got home that night I went to the bathroom then came downstairs in tears. I told them I had to talk to them. They sat, stone-faced and listened as I explained where I was. I explained how I wasn’t sleeping. How I was trying, so hard, to keep my shit together for them, but that I just couldn’t anymore. How I felt like Jackson deserved a better mom sometimes. And I truly, really felt that way. I truly had felt at the bottom that day. All day. And instead of reaching for help, I went further down into myself and had come out so bad on the other side.
Jackson was crying at this point, saying that I should never say that again. That he would never want a different mom and it scared him. That he was scared. For the first time since this has all happened he admitted to being scared. I have tried to have a lot of talks with him about feelings, but he would never budge. It all came out that night. I told him about how my feelings of guilt morphed into anger. About how it all stems from fear. About how I take a pill, everyday to try to combat this, and even so it doesn’t always work. He nodded in understanding, even though he never could, and I hope he never does. Just like I hope I never turn into my own mother, who would bottle all her fear in and then blow up at me in screaming anger. I strive every day not to be that person. Like how Jerimiah strives every day not to bottle up emotions, not to be mean, not exhibit any of the behaviors he saw as a child. It is tough work, and sometimes we have breakdowns. All of us. And that’s okay. I would rather have my child witness my truth, then shove things down, down, down. Then we sat there and hugged for a long time. Went up to the bed, and all slayed together and read books until we fell asleep.
Afterward I wondered about you all.
During my breakdown my husband listened intently. My son cried with me. My family took care of me. Allowed me to lose it, then helped put me back together. But I wondered: What do people do when they don’t have a family that is supportive? When they don’t have friends that will listen? When they don’t feel comfortable sharing their truth with the ones they love? How are people coping right now with families they are stuck with, literally? Family members they can’t stand to be around? Why and how are people in relationships with people who don’t make them feel loved and wanted, even at their worst?
I can’t imagine it, y’all. And please, please, if you find yourself in one of those situations, please reach out. To me, to someone you love, to a therapist, to a medical professional. Because we can’t risk it. You can’t risk it. Times are bad right now. They are for most of us. You are not alone. You. Are. Not. Alone. Even the best, most chill of us (like my husband) need to break sometimes. And we should be allowed to do that with the people we love standing behind us, catching us, and putting us back together.
I’m gonna leave some numbers here for you to call if you need to. And I’m going to leave a reminder, one that my son told me, “I am scared. I am scared that I will lose people I love. I am scared about what the world will be like when this is over. But no one can replace you.”
Y’all know I have limited my Facebook access to 15 minutes a day. I started this back in January. It was very helpful then, and has been VERY helpful now. The only problem is that when I decided to do this I made Jerimiah password protect my access so once my 15 minutes are up, I am kicked off Facebook. UNLESS… I beg and plead with him to give me more time (I don’t really have to beg, he gives in easily). WHICH IS THE PROBLEM! Today I got sucked into FB for three hours because I made a post that ruffled some feathers with my “Truth bombs” as my husband likes to call them, and then I had to spend the next two hours explaining to people, in the nicest way possible, how wrong they were. I even had a family member chime in and say that she was “tired” of my posts and thought we needed to talk about the real truth, which is that the “Chinese have been trying to get us for a long time now and this is all their fault.”
I’m tired of “fighting” on Facebook, y’all. I’m tired of having to correct people (some of them are really intelligent) yet still, I have to give them facts that they could easily find on their own but are too mad or too scared to search for. One could say I am not the “truth police” and you would be right. I don’t NEED to put these people in their place, but if I don’t then who will? Who will stop them from saying shit like, “This is the fault of Chinese people!” Who else will say, “Umm, I think you are reading from Breitbart again. Remember that Breitbart is not considered a ‘factual news source’.” Does it come off as jerky? Yes! Does it come off as uppity? For sure. But I’m not trying to be, I’m trying to make them understand that if they get all their new from InfoWars, they are sorely misguided.
I guess I just need people to remind me that it does no good. I always think, this will be the person. This will be the time they “get it.” The time the see that our president holding up checks to sign his name on them is not a good thing, rather a very bad, very horrible, very “I’m gonna buy your vote, remember I’m the one who saved you, Trump2020” thing. I look over at my exasperated husband and ask the question on all our minds, “What the hell would they have done if Obama would have insisted on signing his name to those stimulus checks?” Dear Lord. We know the answer. And we know he would have never even considered doing it.
All this snowballs, and there I am three hours in and mentally and emotionally drained. How many times can I yell, “OMIGOD what is he trying to say?!” at my dogs, or discuss with my husband whether that mutual friend of ours is trying to be an asshole, or they are just completely dumb to the real world? It’s exhausting.
Today I had people jump all over me because I said I got a stimulus check and was donating to the Biden Campaign. First of all, it was a joke. Ta-da! I already donated all I will (monetarily) to a presidential campaign this year. And it was $50 and it was to Bernie. But I don’t need to explain that to anyone. Look dumb if you want to, which is how that same family member looked when she outright asked on my FB page how much I sent Biden, and if I had the money “diverted” to him? Is that even a thing? How? What? I don’t know you guys, but I’m only giving man hours now, not money, through the Postcard to Voters campaign (shoutout to my friend Jenn for telling me about this). I wish I were making this up cause it would make my family seem less crazy. But you know me and the truth… We didn’t donate to Biden, but we did actually donate money (and you can too) to Hope Atlanta and to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which is helping feed kids in our school district who need fed. But is that anyone’s business? Nah, dawg. Nah. Then I kindly explained to my family member that, “Asking people what they do with their money is rude.” Then other people got mad at me for doing that. “Cause you know Missy, she’s just uppity”. Throws hands up in the air.
To make matters worse, my nerves are shot, I’m not sleeping, and every time someone says something to me I’m taking it personally. Like I assume that they are trying to start a fight with me, even when they maybe aren’t? I just assume that. And if I’m doing that then I know other people must be doing that. Are we doing that, y’all? Are you doing that? I haven’t changed a thing about how I run my life (other than not leaving my house) or how or what I write about in the last month (other than writing about Covid-19 more), but people are coming out of the woodwork to tell me how horrible of a person I am for saying what I say and writing what I write. And all I can think is that they don’t agree with me about my opinions, and because they are also not sleeping, and scared, and angry, they have decided to take it out on me because I routinely put it all out there for everyone to consider.
I bet some of you are feeling like the friend/family scapegoat these days too, and if you are, man, I’m sorry. This will all pass, I promise. And maybe you will have less “friends” on social media when it does, but at least you will know who truly supports you and who doesn’t, right? Silver lining? Something to look forward to. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has been like, “That’s it, I’m deleting my FB account!” But then I have to remind him that if we do a joint account people will think I cheated on him. So he keeps it. But like, should we though?
I dunno you guys. I guess I’m here today to ask for all of us to exercise a bit more grace? I know I need to, and I assume you could manage it too? I think we all could right now. I keep reading Mama Brene’s inspiring words every day thinking, “Jesus, how many iterations did she have to go through to get to that?” Because even Mama Brene isn’t that nice right now. She can’t be. Because being nice takes a lot of work, especially at a time like this, and if we aren’t mindful of it, if we don’t recognize that we aren’t being nice, then we are already two steps behind. I think. Again, I feel like I need to apologize for MY OWN DAMN OPINIONS on MY OWN DAMN WEBSITE. What has this world done to me?!
Let’s make a pact: I will try to ignore haters, and spread some goodness today. You will try to take a deep breathe today when you are feeling reactionary. I will do the same. You will not respond immediately to a source on the internet, until you have fully given it thought and research. I will not pass off indifference for kindness. You will not get too down on yourself. I will look at pictures of llamas. You will look at puppies. We will text each other and say hi. You will send a hug emoji to a friend. I will send flowers to a family member. WE will lift up others and try to show some grace, otherwise, shit is going to go downhill fast.
Remember what Michelle Obama (OUR BELOVED QUEEN) says, “When they go low, we go high!” Let’s go high today, y’all! (Or get weed-high, whatever helps.)
Stay safe and sane.
For you… You can click on picture to take you to website to purchase!
Everyday I wake up with a fresh mindset about the world we live in right now. Then everyday by dinnertime I’m either angry, sad, or sangry. Yeah, that’s a thing. At least, it is now. So today, while I’m still in a relatively okay-ish mood I’m trying to decide what exactly is making me sangry. It seems hard to pinpoint when I’m sitting alone in my office pontificating on the state of things with my friends.
All these thoughts going through my mind, making me crazy. Patsy thinks I might have ADD, but that’s a whole other post. Today I’m telling my friends about what makes me lose sleep and it boils down to this: I am so upset about how our country reacts (as a collective) to basically every bad thing that happens to us. Seriously. I think that’s what is making me sangry right now. I know that is broad, and I know, yes I know, that there is nothing I can do about that, but that’s what keeps me up at night. The way that, unlike say how New Zealand does things in a wake of a tragedy, we as Americans (may I remind some of you that we are US Citizens, we are not the only “Americans” in the whole world, there are a lot of “Americans” in South America for example) react so negatively, so ridiculously when we are hit with tragedy that it makes my heart hurt.
I mention that whole “Americans” thing, because I think it shines a light on what drives us to be total batshit crazy at times of crisis: We are so self-indulgent. So egotistical. We care so much about ‘Merica and ‘Merica only, that we forget there is a whole wide world out there, a whole planet that we share with billions of people, and what we do, and how we act, has repercussions.
Now it is true that since Trump was elected the world has taken us less seriously. With Obama they looked to us to see what we are doing, so they could do the same thing. Now they look to see what we are doing so they can do the opposite, because they want to save their people and the planet. So a lot of what I am feeling has been creeping up in my throat for the last three-and-a-half years. And I am hopeful that we will put an end to this fuckery this year, but it has allowed people, people I know and love, to show their true colors, and y’all their colors aren’t pretty. And some of them aren’t even red, white, and blue. Some of them are just white. Ya dig?
So yes. I think that is it. I think that I am embarrassed to be a US Citizen right now. I think I’m embarrassed that the whole state of Oklahoma is trying to find The Tiger King employees at the local Walmarts, while they buy up all the tp, and plan family and church outings because they literally don’t believe that Covid-19 is real. (I’m picking on Oklahoma, but those ideas are rampant all over the south as well.)
I’m embarrassed that people are picking fights on social media, saying things like, “Y’all are so divisive!” as they share doctored photos of Barack Obama at an ISIS meeting (still, they are still sharing this made-up bullshit), or continue, continue to talk about Hillary Clinton and Benghazi. Literally four people died there. Four people. We are at 20,000 now. Guess what that makes us in the USA for Covid-19 deaths? Number one. Yeah, “We’re number one! We’re number one!” PS… I’m leaving a map here to show you where Benghazi is, because the other day (not exaggerating like two fucking days ago) a long lost cousin shared a meme to remind us all about Benghazi (not sure why, must be the same reason Trump is still talking about the impeachment hearings, sleight of hand shit) and people on their page were legit arguing over where Benghazi even was. Did y’all know it is in the country of Libya, on the continent of Africa? I’m sure you all did, but there are a lot of people who DO NOT KNOW THAT. Did y’all know that Africa is not a country? Again, I’m sure you did, but some people DO NOT KNOW THAT.
Someone said they knew it was where those “Sand (N-word)” lived, but that was it. (Long, audible sigh). Most of these people are related to me by marriage, if I may.
Lest I remind you all the money that went down the toilets to “investigate” Obama and Clinton over “Benghazi” and how all of a sudden, Republicans are worried about the money we spent on the impeachment, but they were cool with us spending money on 10 separate investigations on Hillary Clinton. And still, they still want to investigate her. All Trump has to do to get people pumped up at his rally is say “We should investigate Hillary” and people are on their feet screaming. Rallies that, by the way, he was actually still holding last month when some of the country was already under quarantine. Le sigh.
So yes, it’s the behavior of my fellow citizens, the current administration, and some very loud, very racist, very naive people on social media that keep me up at night. That mixed with the fear that I think we all have, about what our country, what the world, will look and feel like on the other side of this.
So how do we combat it? The simple answer is that we can’t. Well, I mean, we can vote for Biden in November (you have to vote and you have to vote Biden if you want this to be over). But aside from that, we can only keep doing what we are doing. Worrying, reading, loving, staying home. Writing, baking, dreaming of our next vacation. Creating art. Hugging those you are quarantined with. Sending cards and flowers to those you can’t see right now. Face-timing. Gardening. Going on walks. Binge-watching Netflix. Trying to stay occupied so we don’t ruminate too long on one thing, because that is what gets us into trouble.
This is just a rant post. I know. But thanks for reading you guys. For still being around. I know this is a shitty time, and you’d much prefer I share funny stuff, or just shut the hell up and show pictures (which I promise to do this week), but meanwhile you always seem to “get me.” Even when I haven’t done my best at writing how I feel because there is too much going on in my head. And for that I am grateful. For you I am grateful. And remember, when you think you’re the only one sometimes that feels a certain way, you’re not. No way. We are all in this together.
I recently learned a new term, Doom surfing. I first heard it out of context, a Zoom conversation with other writers, when someone said they felt like they were Doom Surfing and I thought, “Oh that must be what I do too!” Because I can tell you at any given point how many cases of Covid-19 we are facing in my county (539), state (6383), country (311,658), and in the world (1,216,422). These are the numbers at this moment, anyway, which was probably yesterday if you are reading this. I assumed that Doom surfing meant people who are always falling down rabbit holes of dread and doom, especially now, connected with the current pandemic. I was half right. Or sort of right. Or there are a couple of variations.
A couple days later I Googled “Doom Surfing” and came up with one of those variations. I saw the term used for people like me, sure, people who are obsessed with getting the up-to-date news on cases and deaths and CDC recommendations, which only serves to stop us from getting a good night’s sleep. But come on, four days ago I got an alert on my phone that said an 11-year-old boy died in the county I live in. The next day I got an alert that said that data was wrong. But in the precious 18 hours between those two news alerts I lost my shit. So I mean, sometimes the doom just comes, I don’t have to seek it out.
But this other variation on the term is a bit more, umm, how should I say this? It’s pretty fucking sad and scary. In Alexandra Wake’s article “Doom surfing and fact checkers prosper in Covid-19 infodemic,”Doom Surfers were likened to people who share Infowars articles to bait and scare people. Wake said, “There are the ‘doom surfers’ looking for anything about the virus to share; the self-appointed online moral enforcers who shame others for sometimes innocuous and other times problematic actions; the internet trolls who appear to find joy in spreading fear or provoking racism; and the comedians who can bring a laugh with a clever meme, song, or video, but, in some cases, may inadvertently cause further harm.”
This made me pause. I wasn’t this kind of Doom Surfer, if there are in fact kinds. At least I hope I’m not. I don’t think I’ve been sharing memes that could further harm. I mean, I’ve been laughing my ass off at Carole Baskin memes, but that feels like a different post. I do, however, know and am in some cases related to, people who do fit this description. People who share misinformation and say things like, “Jesus is the only way out of this. If you don’t believe you can’t be saved,” among other really cool things. (Sarcasm).
Then there is the infodemic we are living in. Infodemic is a term coined by the World Health Organization to express their frustration about getting correct information out to the masses in a time when so much misinformation is being spread. By who? Not WHO. You guessed it, the Doom Surfers.
So how can we stop them? Or us? Or all of it from bringing us down? Simple answer: We can’t. Well, we can’t really stop the other variation of Doom Surfers, but we can work on our own behavior like the way we respond (or don’t respond) to them, and how much time we spend getting sucked into the rabbit hole of hell.
Here are some things I have done in the last three weeks to help, maybe they can help you too:
Log off. That’s easier said than done, I know. But even in this craziness I am still trying to limit myself to 15 minutes a day on Facebook (Y’all know I’ve been doing that for months now) and it is really helping.
Log into new, different ways of connecting to people. Look for the cool concerts, free art exhibits, and other new and amazing things that are happening on the internet these days. Last Friday night Jerimiah, Jackson, and I joined some friends in Rhode Island via Zoom to watch an improv troupe perform. It was so much fun. You can check them out here: Bring Your Own Improv
Read, read, read (but not the internet, duh.) When quarantine hit I ordered three new books that I’ve been wanting to read from three of my favorite Indie book stores around the country. For real. I ordered one from Chicago, one from Kansas City, and one from Atlanta. Supporting small business and getting my read on, it’s kinda cool. But if you can’t do that right now, check with your local library, most of them have online books you can virtually check out and read on your phone or iPad now, and/or other free online libraries like Open Library where you can legit check out Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmade’s Tale” right now. Do it! There are also lots of Little Free Libraries all over the country now. You can find those registered near you at their website. There were seven in our neighborhood in Charlotte, we even helped build them! You just bring an old book from your shelf that you’ve already read, and stick it in there, then pick a new book from the shelf that you haven’t read. Super simple.
When you are scrolling, scrolling, scrolling and you find yourself confronted with one of those people, the other kind of Doom Surfers, scroll on past (if you can). Sometimes you can’t though. For me it’s a simple question: Is this person potentially harming someone with their misinformation? If they are, then you know I can’t scroll on past. I have to say something. I try to keep it short, tell them the nicest way possible they are giving wrong information and remind them to check their sources. I will often do that for them, and post a source with the correct information alongside my comment, then I tell them to DM me if they are confused or want to talk more. Trust me, no one fucking DMs.
Last, but certainly not least, go outside. This sort of goes along with logging off, and I know some of you are like, “Missy, girl, I am not an outside person.” And I get that. But desperate times call for desperate measures, ya dig? Try it. For me. Go sit on the deck in that chair you bought when you moved in and it still doesn’t have a butt imprint in it. Dust off the pollen first. Go for a walk around your neighborhood. If you have a dog cool, if not, call your local animal shelters, the ones who are desperately looking for people to foster right now, and ask how you can foster, or if you are not committed, ask how you can walk a dog everyday. Trust me, you can. They have them. The dogs that would love an hour-long walk outside with a human who will also pet them.
Watch good television. Or bad television. Binge watch “The Office,” again. “Tiger King”? If you just can’t do it, if you just can’t bring yourself to watch a documentary that you think is horrendous and crude (it is, but it’s also so much more) than may I suggest some others. HBO is offering free streaming for 30 days right now and there is a great documentary based on the “Serial” podcast from a few years ago about Adnan Syed. You know the one. There is also a documentary series on Netflix that I recommend about men and women in prison in New York who can attend college through the Bard College Prison Initiative. It’s by Ken Burns so you know it’s good. It’s titled, “College Behind Bars” and it will get you thinking about a ton of things. It will really combat those hours you gave to “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.” What’s that? You’ve never seen “W to the Fourth”? Then stop talking shit on “Tiger King.”
I hope some of this helps you. Some of this entertains you. Some of this inspires you. Most importantly, remember that Doom Surfing, as you and I do it, is sometimes inescapable. There’s nothing wrong with you if you are doing it. It’s human nature, actually, to want to know what is happening. And we are all anxious and scared and a little sad right now. That is the stone-cold truth. You are not alone in those feelings. But just make sure you aren’t the other kind of Doom Surfer, ya dig? Cause that’s bad news bears.
Take care of yourself. And be on the lookout for my “Tiger King” post, because obviously I have some shit to work through with that. Christ.
I’ve had several people reach out to me over the last couple of weeks to ask questions about therapy, so many that I thought it warranted a blog post. I think there are people out there who are really suffering from anxiety and depression right now and they don’t know who to turn to. Some people want to ask questions about mental health, but never would because of the stigma associated with it. This stigma is generations old, y’all and familial. Which is to say that it runs rampant through entire families for years and years. Both the mental health issues and the stigma surrounding help. Parents, grandparents, many who would benefit themselves from therapy and medications, talking shit, if you will, on people who get mental health help, creating a horrendous environment for family members who actually wish they could seek help, but are afraid to because of what their family members will say. This stresses out the people who are already in need of help, thus creating a cycle. Parents saying to their grown children: “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, I did it when I was your age and look at me!” Yeah. Look. At. Them. I know so many people who are “secretly” in therapy that it’s pure craziness. We need to talk openly about this. People need to be informed. People want to be informed. So, let me inform you the best way I can, with a story.
The day I walked into Patsy’s office I was nervous and sweaty. I was immediately wondering if she would see that I was nervous and sweaty, which made me more nervous and sweaty. I’d already done my “intake” paperwork before I showed up at the office. They emailed it to me the week before, I printed it out at home, filled it out, scanned it, then emailed it back. “Intake” is just a scary word that means they have all your information. Name, address, phone number, medical history, health insurance info, emergency contact, etc. All the normal new doctor bullshit. The problem is when people hear “intake” in relation to mental health, they think they are about to get committed to some scary psych ward that they watched a documentary on, and ghosts are going to chase them around in the haunted hospital. Or more likely, they they think they must have something REALLY wrong with them if they are doing an “intake” form. Nope. In fact, I think some offices don’t even call it that anymore. It’s all just called “Evaluation” which is what my office calls it, but some old school places still call it “intake,” so that is something to be aware of. The word here literally means, “Process of taking something in.” This situation being your therapist’s office taking in information about you as a new patient. That’s it. That’s all. Calm your tits.
So I walked into this new office, which is already scary for someone like me, and I was met with a receptionist, which is normal. She spoke in a nice, calm tone (as I’m sure they are trained to do) and told me she had all my paperwork, and that I had a $30 co-pay per my insurance. She then took my card, processed the payment while I stood there awkwardly, and told me that I would be seeing the office’s therapist Patsy for my “evaluation.”
Remember, the first visit to ANY mental health office if going to start with an “evaluation” by a mental health professional. Chances are, if the office has a therapist and a psychiatrist, the therapist will do your evaluation to decide whether you can benefit with regular, old, run-of-the-mill therapy like she can provide, or if you need to see the psychiatrist. Keep in mind here that the psychiatrist is the M.D. The therapist usually just has an M.A. in therapy or something like that, which means she can’t prescribe you medication. But the psychiatrist can. But, that doesn’t mean you HAVE to see the psychiatrist. In my office there is also a mental health nurse practitioner who can prescribe medication under the direction of the psychiatrist. Stay with me.
I was seeing both Patsy my therapist, and Suzan my MHNP. BUT, and this is a big BUT, your primary care physician (your regular old MD doctor you go to when you have a cold) can also prescribe mental health medication. Which means your therapist can recommend medications or treatment plans that you can then take to your doctor and get filled, if your doctor is willing.
So can’t I just see my PCP for all this, Missy? Great question! Absolutely you can, BUT that’s all you’re gonna get from your PCP, medication (and sometimes more of that judgement we talked about earlier, because they just aren’t mental health professionals). You won’t get the therapy that is SO important. In fact, some PCPs won’t give you medication unless you are seeing a therapist, which is smart if you ask me. Trust, I did the PCP for mental health care for a decade, and then it occurred to me one day: When I have vagina issues I see a gynecologist. When I have stomach issues I see a gastroenterologist. If I’m having mental health problems why would I not see a mental health professional? Answer: That generational, familial stigma. You gotta get past that.
Truth Time! Patsy is the third therapist I have been to see. The third time I got up the nerve to talk to someone. But each time before I quit going within three months. Why, Missy? Because, and I can’t stress this enough, THERAPY IS HARD AS FUCK, Y’ALL. You think the first time you will feel better. Nah, you won’t. In fact, you feel even worse. You feel like shit and you start to wonder if the therapist is straight-up out to get you. Like they are a sick subgroup of people who just like to watch other people cry. That’s not the case. Well not usually. It’s just HARD AS FUCK the first few months. The most important thing I can say to you is to STICK WITH IT. Those first few months the therapist is trying to understand you. Trying to figure out what your main issues are. Diagnose you. And no, it isn’t all your Mom’s fault, though truth be told a lot of it is, so if you love your Mom and think she can’t do any wrong, it’s gonna be even harder to sit through this part. Because most of what we deal with as adults stems back to the environment we were raised in. And most of us had shit happen to us, that we can’t even relate to our life now, but trust, your therapist will pull it out of you and before you know it you will be all, “HOLY SHIT! That makes so much sense. This is why I react like that now.” Or “Ohhh, that’s why I hate the color purple.” Trust, you will get answers. But it will take time.
I told Patsy at my evaluation appointment, all about my other therapy experiences and what I did. At the end of the evaluation, which is just a long talk, she asked if I would be willing to work with her, and if so, would I be willing to stick with her for SIX MONTHS! Six months, you guys. I knew my track record. I knew how hard it was, but even so I said yes. And now it’s a year later and I actually fucking look forward to seeing her every few weeks. I smile when I see her (I secretly want to hug her, but I think that’s frowned up) and I already have a list of shit to talk to her about because I know she gets it and can help me. She always gets it. She always helps me. But it took awhile to get there.
The other thing I want to say is that the first therapist might not be your person. Same for the medications. We counted it up, and along with having been to three therapists, two PCPs, and a mental health nurse practitioner, I have been on 10 different medications. Not at the same time. I mean I’ve tried 10 different kinds over a decade and just now feel like I found a good fit. Some of them worked for years, don’t get me wrong, but then they’d stop working. Prozac. Wellbutrin. Zoloft. Yeah, been on them all. And they were all great, but got to the point with me that they weren’t doing their job. So it takes time. And patience. Lots of patience. (Side political note: It also takes money. Health insurance. So people who don’t have money and/or health insurance can’t do this. Is that what we want? A country where only people with money/health insurance can get help they need? Nah, I didn’t think so. Vote, assholes.) Sorry I called you assholes.
Whew. I’m tired writing this, and I’m sure you’re tired in reading it, so let’s stop here. But let me say this: If you have any questions or concerns, or just want to talk to someone about how to even start this process, I’m here for you. Yes, even my complete strangers who just Googled “Ligers” and got to this post. I’m making one of my tags “Ligers” for this reason. I will help you. You can comment on this post. We can get you into therapy. Into someone who can help you around your area. In fact, I’m going to share some links at the bottom of the page to help you if you need it.
Listen, I need you to take care of yourself, okay? It’s important. We need you. Yes you! Your family needs you. Your friends need you. Your community needs you. And if you let what you think is just “a bout of the blues” linger, I promise it won’t get better alone. Trust me. I know. I’ve been there. There are people who want to help you. No judgement. Let me help you find them.
There are currently online support groups for dealing with Covid-19 stress and trauma. Check out this place that are offering their services 70% off (I don’t know much about them, but I did go to their website and see their offer. So it might be worth checking out if you need to.) This is just one example. Google “Online mental health support groups.”
I did my first virtual meeting last week with a group called “The Quarantine Book Club” (I first told you about them in my “Submitting” post last week.) I stumbled upon them on Instagram. They are a group of readers, writers and designers, all around cool people who are hosting virtual meet-ups on Zoom with writers who are promoting books, or essayists and others like them. I stumbled upon them because one of my favorite writers, Megan Stielstra, was the guest. The tickets are $5 through EventBright, and I will post their events, website, and other links at the bottom of the page if you are interested in learning more. But for now I want to tell you about the hour I spent with 55 really nice, really honest, really empathetic and compassionate people at my desk in my pajamas.
I was nervous when I first logged onto Zoom, so nervous in fact that I didn’t even connect with video. That is an option you have. You can just stick a picture of yourself up, or it will just show your name. I chose this pic of Jackson and me as my image:
I couldn’t decide what I was nervous about, I think it was just the idea of meeting new people, yes, even virtually. I did feel a little better when Megan’s sweet face popped up, but I was still like, “Oh my goodness, what if I do or say something crazy and someone notices me?” So yeah, I sat in relative obscurity. For the record, I also didn’t ask any questions (though there were a so many for her we didn’t even get to them all), all I did was thank them at the end in the little chat bar, but I did listen, something I am really good at, and I did soak up some inspiration from one of my favorite writers and some really awesome new friends! (For real, some of us connected on Insta afterward.) And although I took four pages of notes just from listening, these were the big takeaways for me:
Because although Megan is a great essay writer, we didn’t really want to know about how to write an essay, we were all wondering instead, how you an keep writing, how you can survive, in a times like today. And she spent a lot of time telling us how she thought we could do that, how she was trying to do that, and how we as a community must do that. She talked about fear and sadness. About how we can service our communities with our writing. About how it’s okay to be down on the ground. It’s okay because there are people are around us who are not on the ground when we are, and we need to rely on those people, because one day we will be upright and walking, and our friends will be down there and they will need us like we did them. Really. Truly.
Don’t get me wrong, she did talk about writing. She gave some great tips on how to find where you should be submitting. She encouraged us all to get our words out there, but when one woman was unmuted to ask her question, and was crying alone in her bedroom because Megan had just given us all permission to be scared and sad, we all took a long breath in. We were all this woman. Or we have been. Or we will be. And it is scary and it is sad, and we feel bad about it, even though there just isn’t a need to.
I don’t know, listen, I’m still trying to wrap my head around all I learned in one hour with 55 strangers on the internet. I’m sure something good will come from it, but in the meantime here is the link to the Quarantine Book Club again, and here is an essay from Megan Stielstra’s book “The Wrong Way to Save Your Life” and here is a list of my favorite Indie Bookstores you can buy her, or any of the cool, fun, new books from. I’m sure you have your own Indie Booksellers too, but if not, check out Indie Bound.
Some of my favorite Indie Booksellers, the kind of places you can get lost in for hours. Most of them are closed now except to online orders, but most are offering free delivery right now too. And if you’re ever in any of these areas, check out these fun shops, I’ve been to all of them and can vouch for their cold-hard coolness!