Grouchy About TP

Why are there ads and commercials for toilet paper? Which adults out there do not have a favorite toilet paper? Why do people need convincing on this topic? Are there people who are still, I dunno in their thirties, and flipping between toilet paper brands? Is it the damn millienials? I can say that now, because apparently I am an Xennial (somewhere between a Gen X-er and a millennial) so I can blame them for things now. Those damn millennials!

As a grown-ass thirty-something adult, I know which brand of toilet paper I like, and I am not changing. I am not looking for coupons. I am not looking for sales or deals or BuY tHiS nOw ads! I am looking for comfort and plush 2-ply, and I have found it, and I don’t want to see bears wiping their asses anymore. Why Charmin? People are already buying you. Why bears wiping their asses?

And stop trying to come up with inventive ways to use toilet paper. Listen, it is for one thing and one thing only. It’s like how Q-tip prints all the ways you can use Q-tips on the back of their packaging. You can use it to clean your keyboard?! Really? Really, Q-tip? Yeah, I know the medical community came out and said, “Don’t stick things in your ears!” but something tells me they meant penis. Like, don’t stick penis in your ear. You know?

I’m sorry you guys.

It’s 7:30 am and I am already off the damn rails.

Maybe I should go back to bed.

Maybe I should roll out my bulk, two-ply and lay on top of it. Cover myself in it like a sleeping bag. Like a cozy, plush, sleeping bag. Until my husband comes home and finds me, takes one look at me, and mumbles something about buying Charmin.

M.

Dig, Dig, Climax

Last week I walked to my therapy appointment. If you’re keeping up you know I’ve been walking anywhere that is less than two miles or so from my house, because why not? Why not indeed. Anyway, the first words I said to, ohh, let’s call her Eleanor, the first thing I said to Eleanor was, I stink. She laughed and said I didn’t stink, then I explained the walking thing and she was all, good for you, blah, blah, walking is like meditating, blah. That’s not the important bit, but every good story has a lead-up. I’m building a slow climax here, like I do in the bedroom, when I, you know, watch two episodes of Bob’s Burgers before the finale of Broad City.

So there I am, forty-five minutes into my appointment and she’s all, Missy, why did you react that way? And I’m all, Eugene, or, wait, Elle, Eleanor? Eleanor! Eleanor, listen I don’t know, but I want to know. So then Eleanor said something so profound that I can’t stop thinking about it. She said, Missy, a lot of the time when we are upset about something, particularly when it concerns our children, it’s sort of that inner child calling to us. She then told me to always take a step back from my feelings and try to remember what my life was like when I was my son’s age. What was I going through at ten years old? It was sort of an aha moment for me, maybe it’s not for you, but this isn’t your climax. May I suggest the Broad City finale?

Anyway, she also instructed me to ask myself why I allow myself to feel this way. She wanted me to dig deeper. Then I felt stupid, because isn’t that always the answer? Dig deeper. When writing a story you have to dive in, go below the surface. When you’re trying to figure out why someone’s flippant comment made you lose sleep, why them, why you, what did it all mean, just try to dig deeper. When you’ve lost an M&M in the couch cushions and you jam your sticky fingers down, way down where all the crumbs live, and you think you can’t go any further, you gotta dig deeper. Seriously. You will regret melted M&M in between your couch cushions. Trust.

So I dunno, I guess therapy is working. Maybe that is my point here. Or maybe I am really still upset about that one M&M, either way, try to dig deeper in your lives and go forth in prosperity today. I’ll let Ellen know you send your love.

M.

Give it to Oprah

I already have a topic on deck to discuss with my therapist this week. Is that weird? Probably so, but she has the potential to really help me with one of the two problems plaguing me right now: Trusting my intuition versus listening to my anxiety. My other problem has to do with eating too much pizza last night, and I’m positive she can’t help me with that one, but, eh, it’s worth a shot to ask.

Y’all know I suffer from a myriad of mental health conditions. I have chronic depression, generalized anxiety, a touch of OCD, and probably some personality disorder that has yet to be identified but makes it easy for me to both cry and scream in public bathrooms, then blog about it. That has to have a name. But the important thing about all of this is that I am getting help. I have been on medication for years, and I see a therapist, and a practice mindful breathing, and I write, and I order llama-shaped cookie cutters from Amazon. Which is to say that I have my ways of dealing with things. But sometimes, sometimes, my anxiety reaches a peak and I start to spiral out of control, and that’s what happened this week.

My son is going to the Midwest to spend some time with his grandmas over the next 10 days or so and I am freaking out, y’all, like Karen at a damn taping of the Oprah show in December, freaking out. Losing my mind. Unlike Karen, I am losing my mind from intrusive thoughts brought on by a flare up of anxiety. Not because I just found a ticket under my seat for an all-inclusive trip to the island that P. Diddy owns or keys to my own Chrysler Minivan. Fuck you, Karen.

I’m freaking out because he will not be with me. Plain and simple. I am freaking out because I will not know what he is eating, how he is sleeping, how much tv he will be watching. I will not be there to assess how much fun he is having at any particular outing, to remind him to change his underwear, to take his glasses off before he falls asleep. I will not be there ensure that he is doing what he wants to do, not what someone is making him do. I will not be there to control how people talk, or react, or approach him. He will meet people I do not know and so therefore do not trust. He will be with people I do know and therefore do not trust. What if someone is mean to him? What if he wonders off at the waterpark and he drowns? What is the car he is riding in is hit head-on by a semi-truck? What if this is the week the big one hits Kansas and he is swept away in a tornado? What if he can’t sleep because I am not in the next room? What if he is ignored all week? What if he has a horrible time and never wants to go back? What if he has a great time and realizes he doesn’t need me anymore?

If this all seems really dramatic, it’s because it is. This is anxiety, y’all. Welcome to it.

So last night I was tossing and turning in bed waiting for 6:00 am, when he would pile into my best friend’s car (she has been visiting and is heading back home today so he hitched a ride to his Mama’s house with her) I was thinking about all the bad things that could happen. All the fears I have started to bubble up and I started to worry. What if this is my body’s way of telling me that he shouldn’t go, I thought. What if my intuition is wrestling my anxiety, but I am brushing it all off as anxiety? I actually, for real, 100% Googled How to Tell if it is Anxiety or Intuition. I found a bunch of articles, but none of them helped. I had to talk myself off my own ledge that I created and just trust that all these people, and all these places, and all these moments (like when he threw up in my best friend’s car about two hours into the trip) are not signs that something bad will happen, rather they are ways for him to learn, and grow, and become an independent person in his own right. Even as I type this I am rolling my eyes. He’s 10 years old for crying out loud!

Christ Missy, get it together.

Okay. I do have some ways to combat this. You don’t live this way for this long without picking up a few tricks. I’ve been busy all morning. I’ve been working, and cleaning, and Googling whether or not your therapist charges per “topic” or just “hourly”, but still, there in the back of my mind is all the things. And all the things can really take it out of me. It can take it out of anyone. If I were a religious person this would probably be the time I “give it to God” or whatever. So maybe I will try that. Maybe today I will just “give it to pizza” or “Give it to Oprah” (that sounds dirty) and just see what happens.

Hope you are all coping today too.

M.

Grief

I’m in my bed at half past midnight thinking about grief. I’m not just thinking about grief, I’m trying to somehow quantify it. I’m comparing my grief to other’s. I’m trying, in the strictest sense, to make myself feel bad for grieving. To make myself believe that my grief is silly. My grief doesn’t count. I know this does more harm than good. I know grieving is a process. A journey. With steep mountains and robust valleys. I know you take a couple steps, then you stumble. I know you can stand there, on the side of that mountain for a long time. I know you can wonder, and wish, and hope for an answer. For something to keep you from walking over the edge. I know that grief makes you do crazy things and think crazy thoughts. I know grief can wreck you from the bottom up. From the inside out. But here I am, standing on that mountain, wondering what it would feel like to take the step off. I’ll fall back to sleep soon. I’ll fall back to sleep, then tomorrow I will be okay. Sometimes it’s just the darkness that gets to me. I’m learning. I’m coping. I hope you are okay, friends. I’m wishing you reprieve from the darkness. Your grief is real.

Give yourself time.

Give yourself grace.

Tomorrow is a new day.

M.

Backstreet’s Back, Alright!

When I moved to Atlanta in April I decided to go back to regular therapy. Therapy and I go way back, like the epic battle between Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, we’ve had our beef. The first time I remember going to a therapist I was sixteen. I had been pretty sad and started to skip school in lieu of sleeping all day. My mom was nervous so she took me to a therapist. As I was waiting in the reception area I was reading over a pamphlet that asked: Do You Suffer from Depression? It was a quick little quiz that promised to diagnose a mental health problem if you answered five questions: Are you tired a lot? Do you feel hopeless? Do you have trouble concentrating? Are you irritable or annoyed? Do you suffer from low self-esteem? Looking back now I would say this was just a list of normal teenager behavior, but when I looked at that list I was like, Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! And for the first time ever I had a name to go with how I felt. And it made me feel worse.

The therapist ended up being a real whack-job, and she kept trying to get me to admit to being sexually assaulted or beaten as a child. so I went a couple more times and then quit. Then in my early twenties I went again to a therapist a couple of times, then quit. Then at 27 I had my first child and fell into the biggest bout of depression I had ever experienced. Postpartum Depression is a real fucking horror, y’all. It is nothing to sneeze at. At that time I didn’t have the stamina or the willingness to go to a therapist, but my primary care physician put me on anti-depressants after my six-week postpartum check-up because she could see that I was struggling, and that is when my life changed.

There was always a stigma with pills in my family. I would overhear my mom talk to people about how she was sad or irritable or couldn’t sleep, but pills were never the answer. You just had to pull up your bootstraps and keep on keeping on. But honestly, if my doctor had not recognized what I was going through when I was going through it, things might have ended differently for my baby or for me. I had a total loss of control during those early days. Not to mention a colicky baby and a husband who was just as green as I was. It was touch and go for awhile, but the pills helped me so much, that only six weeks into my antidepressants (which was Wellbutrin, and they are totally kick-ass), I decided that if I had to take a pill everyday for the rest of my life to feel better, I would. And I do. Well, now I take two, and this is only after ten years of trial and error.

Look it, I’ve been on Wellbutrin (awesome-sauce, but it made my blood pressure skyrocket), Prozac (the magic pill for more reasons than one, but it gave me horrible migraines after three years), Buspar (this is an anti-psychotic that they paired with Prozac to help with anxiety after I lost my daughter and now it’s on all my charts as a no-go because it made me suicidal), Celexa (good stuff, but plummeted my libido), Zoloft (made me feel no emotions, like zero emotion, all the time, weird stuff), Lexapro (Celexa’s sister, but the one I am currently on because I finally decided I could deal with the libido and the inability to lose weight like a normal fucking person as long as I have a pill that makes me not sad about those two things very often) there has to be some give and take. Then there are the other pills.

The first time I took a Xanax was the night I was released from the hospital after giving birth to my dead daughter. Yeah, that sounds harsh. Because it was fucking harsh. I was given a prescription for Xanax before I left the hospital and my husband drove to Target to get it filled before we went home just in case, even though I told him there is no way in hell I’d be taking that kind of pill. Stigma, remember? Well, I took that kind of pill (which happens to be a pill in the benzodiazepine class. It also happens to be highly addictive and is a way that a many of lonely housewives made it through the 70s, apparently, Valium is in that class) and I was able to sleep that first night. For a few hours anyway. Until I woke up screaming that I was a baby-murderer and had to take another one. That was eight years ago and I still, to this day, keep a bottle of Xanax next to my bed. I am on the lowest dose possible, and I routinely break it in half. I am prescribed 30 of them to last me for three months and I have never run out of them. Why? Because at this point they are more of a crutch than anything else. Just knowing I have them when a panic attack threatens is good enough for me. But things are changing now.

This new town, new me has me thinking differently. For the first time in two years I am with a therapist on the reg. She is a licensed therapist, so she can’t prescribe drugs, but I still wanted to take the burden off of my PCP, so my therapist told that I could use her offices’ Mental Health Nurse Practitioner for all my mental health medication needs. It was interesting, and a little weird at first, but after our first visit I felt confident that she gets it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my PCP, but she doesn’t specialize in mental health. I mean, when I have lady-garden issues, I go to a lady-garden doctor. When I have tooth pain, I see the dentist. So it makes sense that I would go to a mental health professional for my medication now too. And she is nice, but she is aggressive.

The first thing she did was take me off Xanax. Now remember, I have been on this pill (as needed) for eight years. I was a little nervous, but talk about being on a pill with a stigma. In fact, one of the first things I said to my new pill-lady was, See, see that face you made when I said I take Xanax, I’m tired of that face. There is a stigma attached to this pill and I don’t like it. She smiled and apologized for the face. She gets it though, and then she explained the stigma. It’s a highly addictive pill, with a big street value. I know all this of course. I know it first hand. I have a very close friend who was addicted to them a few years back and I watched her life unravel at an alarming rate. She finally got real help, but at a major cost to her life and to her family. So I get it. I do. But when something works, it is hard to turn your back on it.

Long story short (What do you mean, Missy? You always tell a long-ass story, we know this about you!) Well thanks, but let me get to the point here. Long story short, she put me on a new pill. Not a new anti-depressant (just yet), but a new benzodiazepine. And this new one is old, really old. Maybe you have heard of it, it’s called Klonopin. I had heard of it. In fact, I had heard bad things about it, I guess the sorts of things people hear about Xanax, but this one is supposed to be longer lasting so you don’t have to take as much, meaning it has a lower risk of addiction. Okay, I went with it. Next month we are changing my other pill. Apparently there are new fancy ones with less side effects. I’m game. I always trust the professionals.

So here we are. I came home and started to read all about Klonopin, then got myself so upset by what I was reading that I had to take a damn Klonopin, y’all. I wish I were joking. But, it turned out to be okay. It sort of cleared my mind, a feeling I haven’t had in awhile. And it made me talkative and happy. It made me relax and appreciate the good stuff all around. I might be able to get used to this. Maybe just maybe.

I’m telling you all this today because I have learned over the last few years that the only way to break down a stigma is to talk about it. An open and honest discourse about uncomfortable topics has never let me down. We see very little progress when we keep closed off. When we let other people dictate how we should feel, or act, or get help when we need it. We see very little progress when we feed into those antiquated ideas of what is right and what is good. Because the bottom line is, what is good for me may not be good for you. But we shouldn’t be judging each other when we are just trying to figure it all out.

As always take care of yourself and others.

M.

Broken Record

It’s difficult for me to ask for help when I need it. This is something I am just figuring out about myself well into my thirties. It’s not the only thing I am figuring out well into my thirties, but I suspect prioritizing Adele songs in order of their meaningfulness to my own life isn’t the “ah-ha” moment Oprah wanted for me. It’s difficult for me to ask for help and it is difficult for me to reach out to other people when I am sad, or lonely, or overwhelmed. There, that is out there in the world now, I feel better.

Yesterday I was sad. Christ, Missy we know, tell us something new. I know it seems like I am a broken record, like I’m all, Hey you guys! I’m sad today, boohoo what shall I do? But in all truth the sad days are less and less now, partly because it is summertime and partly because I have a new medication. But yesterday my husband left for a work trip, again, and I realized that I’m not missing him when he goes anymore. Let me back up. I always miss him when he is away, what I mean to say is that there was a time when we were always together, and we had a toddler, and life was chaotic, and the thought of us being separated for a week was painful. He’s my best friend and I need his presence. But yesterday, as I was driving back from the airport listing to sad Adele songs (yeah, I know, shut it) I realized that I have grown accustomed to his absence now. And that made me sad as hell.

So I did what anyone would do, I sat on the couch and cried, until my best friend called me. She was having an off day too and she called to just tell me about it, and we talked for two hours and I felt so much better. So I reached out to more people. People who I adore, people I haven’t talked to in a long time. I sent some silly texts, I asked how days were going, I checked on a VERY pregnant friend just to make sure. And you know what, I felt a hell of a lot better, and I hope they did too.

Is there is a lesson in this? Of course there is. And it is one that our therapists have been screaming into our ears for years. But sometimes it takes a little time, a little age, a little trial and error to really make it click. It clicked for me yesterday. I know, I know I am a broken record. But I am broken. We all are, and sometimes we need to realize, accept, and adapt. It has the capacity to make us feel better.

What do you want from us, Missy? I want you to reach out to people when you need to. Ask for help if you need it. Call your best friend. If you don’t have one, find one. Don’t worry if you think they might be busy. Don’t worry if you think they might be surprised, or caught off guard, or, or, or. Make time. Send a funny email. Dance a little jig in the your kitchen with your dog, or your partner, or your child. Put on Adele and cry a river. Doesn’t matter. Take care of yourself and your people, however and whenever you need to. And remember, I love you.

M.

Vulnerable Schmulnerable

Vulnerable. Ick. I don’t even like to type the word. Vulnerable. It sounds vulgar. Vulnerable. My trusty Pocket Oxford says the word means: “That may be wounded (lit. or fig.); exposed to damage by weapon, criticism, etc.” Vulnerable. Bad. Vulnerable. Weak. Vulnerable. How not to be. This word has been kicking around my noggin all weekend. Mainly because I started a Brene Brown book. And listen, if you haven’t read Brene Brown, well, I won’t tell you to read her. Or watch her Ted Talk or her Netflix special. But you know, if you are so inclined, I promise you won’t be disappointed. She’s a research professor at the University of Houston. She’s spent years researching shame and (gulp) vulnerability. She has a fun Texas drawl, and she doesn’t think prayer and cussing are mutually exclusive, so you know, she might not be your cup ‘o’ tea, but she is my kinda gal.

Anyway, Brene Brown has been teaching me about vulnerability. And when she first started explaining the concept, she said things like “exposed” and “easily wounded”. And immediately I thought to myself, “You’re not a vulnerable person, Missy. No worries. You have your ducks in a row.” Because who would want to be vulnerable? Weren’t we supposed to be strong and brave at all times. Especially now, in this dumpster fire of a world we live in? So I decided, nah, I’m not vulnerable. But then I kept going back to what I said, sorta like how my dog keeps sniffing his own butt, even when it appears to be fairly clean. I know my butt is clean. I am 100% sure of it. Right?

I couldn’t figure out why I felt like I was lying to myself. Brene was all, “Missy, girl, it’s okay to be vulnerable.” And I was all, “That’s bullshit, Brene! You’re bullshit, Brene! Just another whack-job, wanna-be-self-help-guru, and I’m not gonna listen to you!” Then I turned off the television and continued to eat my Cheetos, and tell myself I am strong, and I am brave, and I am not vulnerable. Then I woke up in the middle of the night with the butt itchies and realized, holy hell, I’m like, super vulnerable.

Let me try to explain. I’m a writer. No need to apologize, I did it to myself. I write mainly creative non-fiction. That’s my bread and butter. I love to explore my own life, my own stories, my past, my present, my future, and share it with whomever will read or listen. Full stop. That’s vulnerability, right? I mean, every day, just sitting at my desk, writing my random-ass thoughts out for the blog-sphere is pretty vulnerable. Especially in the age of social media, anonymous chatting and commenting, and the intense showmanship and competition that comes with all of this.

Then there are the friendships I’ve had over the years. I am a pretty open and honest person. I’ve come to learn over the last year or two that not everyone appreciates that about me. But what Brene helped me realize is that my friends do appreciate when I am honest with them. They also appreciate when I tell a funny story, or allow them to see me make an ass of myself, but they don’t appreciate my vulnerability because vulnerabilty scares the shit out of people. They don’t know how to be vulnerable, or to act around someone who is. And I get that, I really do. It’s tough to be vulnerable. We’ve been trained our whole lives not to be.

So what does this all mean? Look it, I don’t know. Brene seems to act like she knows, but I don’t think she does either. What I do know is that I am taking this new bit of information I have realized about myself (with help from Brene) and I’m moving forward in my life with a few new rules.

Rule #1: If someone is not ready to be vulnerable, or to watch me be vulnerable, then I am walking away. There are so many other people out there who can handle me, and my butt, and all that comes with it.

Rule #2: I’m going to try not to worry about the critics. There are a million people out there who will criticize me at the drop of a hat. Most of them are too afraid to be doing what I am doing. Most of them want to step out of their comfort zone, they want to make a change in their life, but they are too afraid. It’s easier to sit back and watch other people fail (and Brene says I will fail, a lot) then to find their own courage. Courage to quit their job and follow their true passion, relying on their partner, giving up control. Courage to take that step to put their lives out into the world. Courage to be open and honest with their loved ones. These people make up a million excuses why they can’t do it, and I try to rationalize that when they criticize me. But I can’t do that anymore. If you can’t stick your butt in the fire, you have no right to tell me about my butt, even when it’s in flames.

Rule #3: The people who do care should be depended on more often. The ones that have been cheering me on, those are the people who matter. Those are the people to listen to when criticism needs to come my way. They do it from a love-centered place. They do it because sometimes I need to be slapped. Sometimes I say and do crazy things, and they need to tell me because they care about me. And I’ll listen. I may be mad when they are saying it, but I’ll listen.

So, I guess, uhhh, wish me luck? And maybe watch some Brene Brown? And maybe try to decide if you are vulnerable? And if you are not being vulnerable, then ask your self why not? Wouldn’t it be worth a shot?

M.


Tattered

That word has been on my mind. Tattered. But not in the sense that you think. I haven’t been thinking of tattered clothes; worn out socks, hip jeans made to look abused. I’ve been thinking of what a tattered person looks like. A tattered life. A tattered mind. A tattered soul. The OED says tatter is from Middle English, slashed scraps of cloth. Being in poor condition. Yeah, I feel that some days.

I struggle with mental health issues. I have been diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety. I take pills to cope. I reject common ways of decompressing my stress. I don’t work out when I’m having a panic attack, or do yoga, even though I know it helps. I don’t meditate or focus on my breath. I don’t count to ten or repeat a word over and over until the feeling goes away.

I eat. I cry. I hide in my bathroom, or under my blankets, or in the closet with the door closed until the feeling of panic, willed by brain receptors not firing correctly, passes. If I’m in the car, I turn the radio up loud and I sing, oblivious to anyone watching. If I’m somewhere with people, in a situation I can’t get out of, I shut down. Unless there is wine, then I drink.

I’ve learned these coping mechanisms through trial and error, because these problems aren’t new. I don’t read self-help books. I feel a stigma with doing that. I don’t routinely visit a therapist, I always feel worse when I’m there. I don’t even take some of my medicine regularly. I almost forget it’s there when I really need it. In short, I have some work to do, but it’s on me. And that’s the problem.

I have no problem putting others’ needs in front of my own. My son is P1. I worry about his health, his sleep, his school work, his friends. I worry that he’s getting a cough. I worry about his mental health. Then there’s my husband. Is he happy or just content? I worry about my dog. Why does he bark that way? Does he need outside? Should I take him to the vet for this behavior? Then there’s my mom. My family. My friends. Then, there’s me. By the time I get down to me I shrug and say, “I’ll be alright.” Cause, I will. I always have been. But even as I say this, I know this way of thinking takes a toll.

It has taken a toll, on a lot of us.

The curious thing is, back before I was a mommy, way back, before I was even a wife, just loosely hanging on as an “adult” I never worried about any of this. I never worried about worrying about myself. Even when myself was all I really had to worry over. God, that doesn’t make sense, I know. In more ways than one, but that’s the best way I can say it. Back when I could focus on myself, and not feel guilty about it, I didn’t know enough to know that my mental health was abnormal. I’ve always been this way, I thought this was normal. Then I started to meet people who didn’t wake up crying at 2 am because they realized death was inevitable and how could I actually stop feeling this weight press down on my chest?! And I was like, hmpf, that’s weird.

I dunno. I guess I am having a down day today. We all do sometimes. And then it all sort of adds up. So consider this mindless chatter, this relentless cloud of sadness that sort of hangs around me. Consider it, I don’t know, a reminder. Check in on your people. Call your mom. Send a handwritten card to someone you care about. If you feel up to it. But try to put your feelings and emotions and mental health first for a change. Then see how the rest falls around you. I hear if you can master it, it is remarkable. Meanwhile, put on some new sweatpants. Take a shower. Wash your hair and don’t blow dry it. Get out of the tattered place and back into the sunshine.

M.

Panic! Not Just at the Disco

The first time I remember having a panic attack I was 17 years old. I’m almost positive, looking back, that I’d had them before that, but I just didn’t know what to call it. Once, when I was about nine, I was so nervous waiting for my mom to come pick me up from a sleepover, that I had to go sit in my friend’s bathroom, away from all the noise and laughter. I was trembling, and my hands and feet were clammy, and my chest felt very tight. I sat in the bathtub, pulled the curtain closed, and waited for my friend’s mom to open the basement door and call down to tell me that my mom was there. In hindsight, that was probably one of my first panic attacks, but I didn’t know it at the time. I did know, however, that I was different than the other girls.

At seventeen I woke up in the middle of the night. I’ve always struggled with sleep, so I didn’t think much of it. This was back before you kept your cell phone charging next to your head, so I would just lie awake and stare at the ceiling listening for unfamiliar noises and worrying, mainly, about all the things that could go wrong in my life. What if I didn’t pass my next chemistry test? What if my mom found out that I had pot stashed in my dresser drawer? Those sorts of things. This particular night I remember with clarity, because it was the first time I thought about death. I wasn’t suicidal, never have been. Save for that time I was put on a medicine to help with anxiety and it didn’t react well with me. But we will save that for another time. What I mean is, I became hyper-aware for the first time, that one day I would die. That’s the funny thing about this life. It ends the same for everyone. And when you’re a kid or a reckless teenager, you don’t think too much about that. Until the day you do.

Existential dread or angst, I jokingly call it now. Jokingly because it happens to me all the time, I sort of live in this space, and it happens to a lot of us, most of use, from time to time. But when I was seventeen, I didn’t know what the hell it was. I just realized I would die, then wondered how I would die, then ventured into this whole new world of anxiety and worry that was never there before. It struck me so violently that I found myself awake for days, unable to sleep, consumed first and foremost by the idea that I was going to die, I had convinced myself, at any moment.

Of course I did the worst possible thing, I told no one. I went about life as normal as I could, all the while plagued with these constant, OCD thoughts about death. In AP English I’d think about death. In Chemistry, I’d think about death. At lunch, death. Hanging out at my friends’ houses after school, talking about crushes and pretending to care about my make-up and hair, death.

Then one day, months after the first thought, I had a total and complete meltdown. I was still a kid, as much as I thought otherwise, so I had my meltdown in a totally kid way. First, I flipped out at school. I got into a fight with my best friend, on purpose, because I wasn’t happy and she was and that pissed me off. Then I hitched a ride home halfway through the day with another friend (read: we skipped school and got high, then went to Taco Bell). Afterward, she dropped me off at home. I forgot that I don’t normally beat my mom home from work (don’t smoke weed kids, mkay), so she was confused when she got there and I was home. This led to a fight when she accused me of skipping school. I was appalled that she would “accuse” me of such a thing, then I went into my room, and slammed my door. (Ugh, moms are the worst!)

That night my mom went out and she told me not to leave the house, I was “grounded” in as much as she could ground me. So at about 8:00 pm, a friend picked me up and we left to go smoke more weed down at the river. Here’s the thing. The “river” was the cool place to hang, way down by the railroad tracks, because we were totes sad, sordid, teenagers with the weight of the world on our shoulders, oh poor, pitiful us… We were living every single scene from #MySoCalledLife.

The cops came, as they often do, and everyone took off running. Well, I don’t run, ya dig? Even when I think my life is in danger. Like if a bear came at me in the woods I would be the last one there, trying to reason with the bear, all, Listen bear, I’m mostly fat and who likes the fatty parts of the meat? So I just sort of walked away, down the railroad tracks to an old railcar. (Insert the Daria soundtrack). Turns out the cops weren’t too hellbent on arresting a few teens passing a dime bag, so they took off, but there I was alone, at night, a little high, on the train tracks. When, you guessed it, a train came.

Now, I’m not suicidal (see above), so meandering around the live tracks at night, weren’t exactly what I was going for. In fact, I was scared shitless, and I started back to the riverfront park to find my friends, but they had left my ass. That’s about the time the intrusive thoughts started up again. I know it, I told myself, I’m going to die and this is probably the night. I could smell the fire burning from the hobo village (I don’t think that is politically accurate now, but that’s what we called it) under the bridge, the train was approaching, my friends had left me, and there may or may not be cops lurking in the woods waiting to arrest me for being out after curfew. Plus, I was going to die. Maybe not that night, but certainly some day.

I made it down to the park, where there was a large mound of grass, and a well-lit walking trail. I sat down as the train approached, and all the things hit me at once. My chest tightened and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My hands became clammy, my feet went numb. The train hit the city limits. The thoughts raced through my mind. Things are changing, it won’t always be this way. The lights on the track flashed their warning, the bars lowered. Breathe, Missy, breathe. The bells chimed. The engine gave a loud hiss. I can’t stop time, one day I will be here on this earth, and the next I will not be and the whole wide world will still spin around without me. The sound of the wheels on the wood, louder and faster. I’m going to die. The train wooshed by. All the people I love, we will all be gone. And then, just like that, it was all over.


Jesus, this all sounds dramatic. But it really felt like the end of the world. Of my world, anyway. And sometimes, some days, it still does. I wish to all the universes that this was something that I grew out of, or something that never happened again. Something that goes away every day when I take my pills. But no, it’s always here. And I’ve had about ten or so of the actual, painful, Am-I-having-a-heart-attack panic attacks in my life. I can remember each one of them with a clarity I wish I could have given to my chemistry homework. The time Jerimiah had to hold me in the living room because I couldn’t sit still. The time I had to excuse myself from class because I thought the walls were caving in on me. That time I was driving through Tennessee, my son snuggled up in the backseat, and I had to call my friend just to talk. Thankfully, I have people, and thankfully I know when to reach out.

I wanted to share this today for two reasons: 1. It is coming. I’m headed down a dark, bleak hole, and I know it and I feel it, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. The stress is inching up in my neck and in the next few days I will be down for the count. It’s not anything different than it was yesterday, or last year, or 10 years ago. I just know how to read the signs now. How to better equip myself for the fall. Which leads me to number 2. I’m still here. I’m still alive, and this is only temporary. One of my favorite writers likes to remind us that #DepressionLies, and shit yeah it does. But man, it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. It doesn’t feel like it when it’s 2:00 am or 2:00 pm and you are in your bed, covered to your neck in blankets because that is the only way you can get through the day. It doesn’t feel like it when you stop texting friends back, or when you just want to eat chocolate and not make eye contact with your partner or your kid. It feels like you are trapped in this dark place. It feels like you did it all to yourself. It feels like it will never be right again and that you will never be right again. But you will.

Take care of yourselves, y’all.

And I’ll take care of me.

M.


Vibes

I love Instagram! Love it. I mainly love it because it allows me to share pics and jokes, man I love a good joke, without actually logging onto Facebook. I used to love Facebook, until my friends and family lost their ever-loving minds. One day they were fine and normal, sharing recipes and baby photos, then the next day they became political strategists. Then the next day they were physicians, deciding that vaccines were bad and that “late-term abortion” means that a woman gives birth to a healthy child at 40 weeks gestation, and then the doctor shoots the baby in the head, while the mom yells, Do it! and sticks a needle full of that good, Mexican meth that was smuggled into El Paso on foot, into her arm, then has sex with the doctor so she can get pregnant again. #GodsPlan


As great as Instagram is, sometimes it fails me too. Like yesterday. I was scrolling my feed, just a scrolling and scrolling, looking for some funny VD Day memes, when I ran across this super-cute, ultra-hip t-shirt (it was an ad) and it had pretty flowers, and pastel colors, great font, all the basic, basic bitch stuff that I love. My eyes were immediately drawn to it (Facebook really knows how to target ads.) I was like, “OHHHHHH, it’s cute!” Then I read the words.


Here’s the thing. I love good vibes. I mean, who doesn’t? If I could live on a beach with Matthew McConaughey, a sack of some really primo weed, and a pitcher of bottomless margaritas all day, every day, I would. No. I actually wouldn’t, for three reasons. 1. I don’t smoke weed. 2. I can’t handle my tequila and 3. He’s waaaaay too active for me. But I like to think it would be Good Vibes Only, right? Right.

But I know myself. And I know my friends. And I know my family. And I know, for the most part, how people operate, and well, it’s not all good vibes all day, everyday. In fact, some days are made of really shitty vibes. Really sad vibes. Really upset vibes. Crazy-busy, justneedaminutetobreathe vibes. Also, my-kid-just-threw-cereal-on-the-floor, I’m-hiding-in-my-closet, and might-stab-my-boss vibes. I have all those vibes. I give all those vibes. I see and hear and feel, all those vibes, from everywhere, everyday. And while it isn’t awesome, sometimes it is necessary. Because sometimes when I’m Good Vibes Only and my husband or my son or my friend is throwing out some Feeling-Super-Overwhelmed-Today vibes, then maybe I can help. But if I’m all, Nah, dog, Good Vibes Only, then maybe they will be less likely to come to me for help. Am I making sense?

I’m not saying this isn’t great. I’m not saying that we should stop sending out good vibes or accepting good vibes, or even anticipating mostly good vibes. I’m just saying, we can’t always live our lives in a Good Vibes Only way. And we shouldn’t be expected to. And we shouldn’t be frustrated with ourselves, or our people, on the days when good vibes are not possible.

I guess all I’m really saying is, I will take you, I will love you, I will listen to you, I will hug you. I will take all your vibes. The good, the bad, and the stabby. And I hope you will do the same for me.

And listen, if that shirt would just change one letter, I would buy it today!

Sending some good vibes your way, y’all, cause I’ve got some to spare today.

M.