Sunday, May 31, 2009

She dreamed a dream.

Susan Boyle lost Britain's Got Talent this weekend. That part I'm not so sad about. Contests have winners and losers; contestants with more exposure often feel a backlash. I was never so attached to her talent (I think she's a very good singer, maybe a great one) as I was to her story: she dreamed of singing in front of thousands, she never gave up on that dream, and she got her chance.

What makes me sad is the news reporting today that she's checked into a psychiatric clinic for acute emotional distress; apparently, she's been slowly breaking down for awhile now and struggling to keep it all together (she had lots of psychiatric/psychological support when she was competing which makes sense, because to go from living with your cat alone to getting filmed by actual paparazzi all the time would make anyone's head explode) and it all came to a head after she lost the show.

There's probably some little proverb or fable to be woven here about the evil of the modern media machine or the folly of seeking one's fifteen minutes of fame. I don't know. I can't see it like that right now.

I know how it feels to want something, to feel pressured to get it, to fail, and to have it destroy you. To have it happen on a public stage is unimaginable for me. Maybe it shouldn't matter to me, but it does, and my heart is breaking for her.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Like Things That Are Nice

Panic is my default state. I'm trying to hit the reset button on that, but until I do, I'm learning to embrace and just GO WITH the things I find soothing, operating on my psychiatrist's admonishion to do anything that makes me feel better, so long as it's not destructive. And so I take showers in the dark and build tents in my apartment and sleep with a security blanket every single night and make complicated sandwiches and always remember to keep the fridge stocked with Caffeine-Free Coke and pineapple.

Sidebar(car): As I typed that, I realized I'm out of pineapple. Then I realized two in the morning is probably too late to go out for more. Then I realized I was awake at two in the morning, and why hadn't my sleeping pills kicked in? And then I realized I hadn't taken them yet. Cause and effect!

I sold my turntable so I could see musicals when I was in New York (it was all very "Gift of the Magi"), and one of the records I miss listening to most is the original Broadway cast recording of Peter Pan. We didn't own many movies growing up, and the majority we did own were taped from television. One of them was NBC's version of the Broadway show -- it didn't so much resemble a movie as it did a videotape of a really, really good high school play. I watched it over and over as a child, adored that the kids I nannied for three years were obsessed with Hook and pirates, and read my copy of the Baby-Sitters Club book about putting on the show until it fell apart.


Towards the end of the musical, Peter remembers a lullaby his mother used to sing to him and sings it for the lost boys and Wendy. I've been watching the video of it on youtube over and over again (you can actually watch the entire musical on there, if you don't want me to come over with my VHS copy so we can watch it and make popcorn which I think would be really fun but, you know, WHATEVER). I literally realized JUST NOW that I could, say, buy the song on iTunes or buy the cd, and I'm probably going to do just that when I wake up, but for now, here's the song, a minute and thirty-seven seconds of comfort, of something good.

Friday, May 22, 2009


"As for me, I believe that if there's a God -- and I am as neutral on the subject as is possible -- then the most basic proof of his existence is black humor. What else explains it, that odd, reliable comfort that billows up at the worst moments, like a beautiful sunset woven out of the smoke over a bombed city." --Elizabeth McCracken

At least six times in the past two weeks, people have (kindly, and with good intentions) likened what I'm going through to diabetes, insofar as it's a medical condition that will be all but ignorable once medicated properly. But, honestly, it is nothing like diabetes. This is how frustrated with my situation I am: I am frustrated with the METAPHORS FOR IT. Soon I will probably go apeshit on the letters b i p o l a and r, which will make playing Wheel of Fortune pretty interesting.

It feels much more like hemophilia. One cut, you can't stop bleeding. One blip in my day, my brain goes haywire. An instant that would at best mildly annoy someone else leaves me -- literally -- crying on my knees on the sidewalk. It is not, strictly speaking, that awesome.

Fortunately, it's kind of hilarious. I've been cautioned many times in the past decade-and-change of therapy to avoid using humor as a defense mechanism, to allow myself to really feel and experience my feelings. And you know what? I've done that. I know what these feelings are. I have NOTHING left to learn from them. I can only be crushed by them and I'm not particularly willing to do that anymore.

I'm still fighting these days. It's hard. There's no way to make it easy. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to make it funny. I fight like hell to keep from going down every day, and I'm not planning on it, but if I do, I'm sure as hell going down laughing. Laughter is my clotting factor.

Monday, May 18, 2009

My feelings. Again.

Friday and Saturday were this lovely little era where things weren't perfect, but they were survivable -- I could push through, work around the depression, and (merciful heavens!) have fun. Friends, sunshine, adorable children, pancakes first thing in the morning. And I got to feeling like, yeah, okay. I can do this. This isn't so bad.

And 36 hours later, it's like I've run smack dab into a wet bed sheet.

I would like to be able to get my bearings a little bit, to be in a state that's not an extreme. I would like to get a night of sleep that doesn't involve me stumbling around trying to find cake or staring at my ceiling until four in the morning. I'm tired. Even when I'm in this state, I can drag myself out and around. I went miniature golfing with my father today (shut up) and was practically asleep in the car on the way back. I'm the whirring light-up children's toy that drains down batteries too quickly. Five minutes of fun, then total shut down.

We're right around the time now when things started to go south last summer. Logically, I can speak to the progress that's been made since then (proper diagnosis, good doctors, steps toward the right combination of medication). But it feels exactly the same. I'm still trapped in it, still stuck in my bed with my stale sheets and comfort food.

I call all this -- everything falling under the umbrella of what I'm struggling with now -- "my feelings." Again, logically I can state categorically that this is a disease, just one that happens to impact the way my brain functions rather than, say, the way my body produces insulin. And again, the logic of the situation is VASTLY different from the way the situation feels. I feel like I'm failing on some level, not yanking myself up by my bootstraps hard enough.

I would like to be able to write about it the way I want to. Living a story I can't put down on paper is an alien experience. The best I can manage are little fragments scribbled on Post-It notes or typed into emails or texts I send to myself. And at the same time, I want desperately to have a different story to tell.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


"I'm hungry. Like, very, very hungry."

"When was the last time you ate something that wasn't pudding?"


At this point, we're really just fighting pudding with pudding over here.

Good morning and welcome to my childhood.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Let's Just Lay It All Out There

The following is an almost-but-not-quite-close-to-comprehensive list of the current contents of my ipod shuffle, Reggie Red. It should be noted that there are some items that are non-negotiable ipod standards (Pink Moon, Abbey Road, &c.) and some items that are capriciously rotated in and out.

Podcasts: Three episodes of This American Life, one episode of Daily Power Nap

Full-length compliations made for me by others: The 25 Mix, Maudlin for Maudlin, The Sarah Butler Songs

Full Albums:
*Abbey Road (The Beatles)
*Armchair Apochrypha (Andrew Bird)
*Begin to Hope (Regina Spektor)
*The Best of Leonard Cohen (Leonard Cohen)
*Breakout (Miley Cyrus)
*Challengers (The New Pornographers)
*The Chaos in Order (Let's Go Sailing)
*Dark Was the Night -- compilation cd with Ben Gibbard, The Decemberists, Iron and Wine, etc.
*The Execution of All Things (Rilo Kiley)
*Figure 8 (Elliott Smith)
*Funeral (Arcade Fire)
*The Hazards of Love (The Decemberists)
*I Am Not Afraid Of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (Yo La Tengo)
*In Our Bedroom After the War (Stars)
*Middle Cyclone (Neko Case)
*MTV Unplugged in New York (Nirvana)
*Music for Tourists (Chris Garneau)
*Neon Bible (Arcade Fire)
*Next to Normal (Arena Stage bootleg recording)
*Noble Beast (Andrew Bird)
*Oohs and Aahs (Say Hi)
*Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
*Pixel Revolt (John Vanderslice)
*Plans (Death Cab)
*Set Yourself On Fire (Stars)
*When the Pawn (Fiona Apple)
*Odessey and Oracle (The Zombies)
*21st Century Breakdown (Green Day) I just downloaded this today and I LOVE IT. To wit: "You are your own worst enemy/Know your enemy."

Other significant artists (those with several songs or very important songs on Reggie, but without full albums): Aimee Mann, Brandi Carlile, selections from the Spring Awakening soundtrack, Elton John, Iron and Wine, Joni Mitchell, Ashlee Simpson, The Kinks, The Lucksmiths, The Magnetic Fields (20+ songs from 69 Love Songs), MGMT, My Chemical Romance, Radiohead, Robyn Hitchcock, The Shins, Simon and Garfunkel, The Smiths, Sufjan Stevens but only kind of because the covert Jesus stuff really bothers me sometimes, Talking Heads, Tom Petty, Tori Amos sort of, and Imogean Heap.

Also "Silent Sigh" and "West Coast," both of which get heavy play.

Yes, this took me way too much time. But know what? I HAVE way too much time.

Feel free to judge. And then tell me what you're listening to, please.

Small Talk FAIL

Yesterday I was at the pharmacy. Sidecar (I've started using this instead of sidebar; spread the word!): I am at the pharmacy at least one day a week. When I go to the QFC and just WALK PAST the pharmacy, the staff smiles and waves at me. Sometimes when my insurance is being ridiculous I get to go to the pharmacy EVERY DAY and have individual pills dispensed to me. They know me by order, like baristas. It's fun!


When I got up to the counter, I realized that the person being helped by the other pharmacist was someone I've met a few times and am friendly with. I was about to say hello when HIS pharmacist came up to him and said, "Okay, here's your [name of psychoactive medication]!" and then MY pharmacist asked, "Are you just getting the [name of my psychoactive medication] refilled today?" and then it became abundantly clear that he and I would not be exchanging pleasantries that day.

I Would Like To Talk About My Pudding Now

On the advice of my psychiatrist, I've all but stopped consuming caffeine. This is why I was so elated to find Caffeine-Free Pepsi by the bottle in rural Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago:

But my psychiatrist has also dispensed this little pearl of wisdom: "If you are in a bad place, and there's something you can do that is safe and will make you feel better, you should go ahead and do it. " It's advice that's maybe a little unconventional but so damn wise. I don't know why the idea of being kind to myself seems so revolutionary to me, but it does. So. That. Anyway, I've been going from smooth water to rapids pretty easily now and that makes me sad and worn out. And there's something that fails to make it okay but always, always makes it better.

Pick up a tub. Or four, as I did this afternoon. You will not be sorry.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

And, not for nothing, but:

If you've ever wanted to know what it's like to struggle with mental illness or love someone who does, watch this scene from a musical I've seen several times (it's on Broadway now and played off Broadway a year or so ago) about a mother who's bipolar. It's just a crappy bootleg (like, to the extent that you can hear someone dig the camera out of their bag before it starts). I think it's important to watch because it cements my belief that musical theater is necessary and important, and that there are some stories that can only be told as musicals.

But what's more, I think it's ESSENTIAL that people living with mental illness have their stories told and honored and respected and LISTENED TO. And I think it's equally important that people who aren't impacted are given the chance TO listen. And that's not something that happens all that often. And that makes me very, very sad.

I'm extremely, extremely gratified that this is a show that's getting attention, and that Alice Ripley (who's the woman in the video) is being commended for her work in it. It's so evident in her performance that she respects the role she's playing and is committed to telling her story, and I don't think I can overstate how much that means to me.

Same day, different song.

I listen to this again and again and again these days. The reasons why are entirely predictable.