How the f@&k am I supposed to get through the holidays?!

Sure I know people who are totally looking forward to the holidays with a “devil may care” attitude because I happen to know people who are less than seven years old. Just kidding, even privileged kids are set up for unreasonable expectations that will be met with disappointment.  Even if they are lucky enough to have parents who love them, and want them to be happy, it will never be exactly as they want it to be.  Maybe they want a gift Mommy and Daddy cannot afford, or maybe, as was in my case, their Jewish mother would not allow her to have a Christmas tree!  Ugh, I didn’t get to have one until I was in college where my roommate wrestled my other roommate, accidentally tossing me into the tree, which was when I learned I was horribly allergic to it!

I know.  I have listed possibly the most arrogant, privileged, carefree issues one could have during the season of pressured festivities. But do not think for a second my holidays have always been easy.  A little over eleven years ago, on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, my mom passed on.  And although my relationship with my mother was fraught with more than the typical mother-daughter issues, I loved her more than anything.  I cared about her feelings enough to keep the secrets she needed me to keep, leaving me feeling isolated, from our extended family.  Secrets of the manipulation and abuse that I withstood, due to my mother helping to raise a boy, whose mother was too busy chasing men to care about her son, or the problems he had in his mind that lead him to turn me into the object he needed to dump his pain into for the better part of my childhood.  Although the last few years of my mother’s life she did all she could to protect me, by making sure that I never had to interact with these “friends of the family”, I spent my mother’s entire lifetime feeling alone in my misery.   So when she died I felt my coming out about my past could no longer hurt her, and would possibly end my suffering. I am sure you can guess that the love and support I expected was not there and instead I received judgment and disbelief.  And on top of that, with my mother out of the picture, there was no one there to make sure I could feel safe to share the holidays with my family.  Oh, my father tried.  The first Hanukah after my mother’s death he brought dinner, from one my favorite vegan restaurants, to our family party for me.  (Yes, I am one of those annoying vegans).  But when I was greeted at the door by my abuser’s mother, throwing off an insult about my lack of smile, how could I stay and eat it.  I went to cry in the bathroom until I could gather the strength to thank my father for dinner, bring it to my car, and eat it alone doing the best I could to not self-abuse.

Oh right, this article is about using humor to get through the holidays, so why the F%$k am I talking about this – especially when things have changed so much for me?  This year I cannot wait to see my family on ThanksHanukah.  Yes, my family was too Jewish for me to have a Christmas tree but not so Jewish that we do not meld holidays together to suit our fancy.  And sometimes the high-holy days start out with shrimp cocktail cause you know, it goes with Jewish deli.  What?!?

Maybe it is time for you to understand what it means to be a comic.

Well, first-off people are not born happily into comedy.  Sorry if you thought that was the case but it takes a lot of prior sadness, a lot!  And enough trauma for us to develop the coping mechanism of turning pain into something that can be laughed at.  Some of my favorite comics, Martin Lawrence for example, will get onstage and come clean about some of their darkest hours to the enjoyment of an audience.  (If you have not seen the special where he addresses why he was outside practically naked yelling at people I totally recommend it.)  In my opinion, the best comedy comes from digging down inside yourself, admitting your faults, and finding ways to make it funny.

In some ways it is not too different than what I do during the day.  As a Peer Specialist, it is my pain that enables me to be good at what I do.  And I fricken love the peer movement because, like most Comics, Peers are honest.  But while the Peers I know are amongst the most gentle, sweetest people, Comics are the exact opposite and it was with Comics that I spent many of the holidays away from my family.

Comics love, love, love! to attack each other.  I want you to know something, if you ever find yourself with a group of comics and are surprised how awful we are to each other; understand that it is our sarcasm that indicates our respect and adoration.  It is like a coed fraternity with whom being able to withstand these attacks is par for the course.  So in other words, if they like you, they will insult you.  So it was in part through this hazing that I learned to laugh at what I have and what I am, and although I am grateful for the holiday’s I have spent with my comic friends, and look forward to some of these celebrations all year, (the Fourth of July party I always attend is the Bomb!) something was still missing.

But luckily I have friends with more traditional family lives.  And I have been blessed to be invited to many of my friends’ families’ holidays, but although it is no one’s fault, being around husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, and children, made me feel bad about myself.  And even if I try my best to keep quiet about my lifestyle, no one is happy about having a vegan at their table for Thanksgiving.  My plate consisting of red wine and uh, in some cases that’s it, makes everyone, including me uncomfortable.  After being vegan for eleven years I cannot digest your string bean casserole filled with dairy even if I wanted to.  And for some of my friends’ families, roasting a whole pig and making it the centerpiece is customary.  I have never had to fake nausea to get out of eating at tables such as these as I love pigs the way most New Yorker’s love dogs and I truly cannot stomach watching the people I love eat Ms. Piggy.  Although someone was always kind enough to offer me the apple.

For so many Thanksgivings all I really wanted to do was volunteer but my ideals made serving turkey impossible.  Luckily the great hurricane of 2012 changed that for me!  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I worked with a church helping to clean up the Jersey shore, wearing the required Jesus loves New Jersey T-shirt.  Not only did I have a nice time, but my growing confidence enabled me to tolerate the fact that I was the only one there without any family.  Mine was, from what I was told, wishing I was celebrating with them, but although I was promised none of the childhood perpetrators I wanted to avoid would be present, I was still three years away from letting go of that part of the past to rejoin my family.  My confidence and my ability to enjoy what is was growing.  After the cleanup, I went to a bar with my friend and her husband only to be hit on by a drunk and disorderly man who, due to the T-shirt I was still wearing, was very impressed with my love of Jesus, Oh Jesus!

Then there was my first holiday with the man I would eventually become engaged to.  To my surprise, he is Jewish, not Jewish like my family, really Jewish.  While my father spends his Friday nights at the movies with his girlfriend, or as he refers to her, friends-no-benefits, (a description of which I am no longer convinced is true) my fiancé’s mother is lighting the candles and saying prayers.  In order to help them like me, I was asked to cover my tattoos, including the one my mother bought me for my eighteenth birthday, and pretend to actually have a clue about what it meant to be Jewish.  I hate – I mean really hate lying, I am the kind of friend who has been known to say “yes, you do look fat in that” but I did it.  I talked about Leonard Cohen and my limited experience at Jewish sleep away camp at nauseam.   And although I was looking forward to the day when I would be honest with them, while I was there I respected my man’s request, and found the situation very funny.  They were no more perfect than my family and while they were as “Jewish as could be” they started dinner after 11pm, and were hanging out with me instead of going to Temple, I mean Shul.  I just learned there were only two Jewish Temples in all of history, but just about every Jewish person, including my fiancé’s mother, calls it Temple.

I was just grateful that they wanted me there and made a vegan stew just for me.  Why did I have to be so harsh with my relatives?  Why did I have the impossible expectation that they could change the past?  I wanted to find a new way to relate.  My way, a comic’s way.

No family holiday is perfect!  Not even the Obamas.  I am sure Michele can be a little controlling over how much pie her daughters get to have, I mean, look at those arms!

So neither is my family.  When I got engaged a cousin, I hardly know, attacked me over when I was going to have children saying it was the only way to make my father’s life complete.  I am an entertainer, in my forties, with borderline personality, and hearing disorder that makes loud noises excruciating. So, assuming I could get pregnant, and on the off chance that spending ten years over-medicated didn’t affect my ability to bear a child heathy enough to survive childbirth, who does she think would care for the child while I was out at night working, my eighty something-year-old dad and his girlfriend no-benefits?!

Sooooo there it is.  I did not get upset, I did not internalize it.  Instead, I just went to the bathroom to laugh it off and write it down in case I could use it for a joke later.  I have learned that we only have so much control over our relationships.  The people you interact with are not dealing with you as you see yourself; rather they are interacting with who they have decided you are, which the longer they know you the more likely they are wrong.  This leaves us and our families interacting with the ghosts of who we were years ago, instead of who we have worked so hard to become.  And this is true on both sides.  I am now someone who loves interacting with all kinds of people and someone who sees adversity as a way to grow, or even better, a chance to write a joke so funny that it finally gets me on Conan, yeah I know too late, but I just can’t get with Fallon.  The fact is it is unlikely that ThanksHanukah will end with me sitting in my car eating tofurkey crying by myself because I want to enjoy myself.  And it has taken me about eleven years to realize that no matter what happens on the outside that choice is mine.

Happy holidays everyone!  It is my genuine hope that you all find your own way to enjoy the entire holiday season.  And when all else fails, remember the words of the great Victor Frankl who reminds us that “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”, but I hope your holidays are happy enough to find joy, acceptance, and laughter in the moment, without needing to remember a quote written by a man while he was surviving the Holocaust.

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Why won’t somebody love me!!!!!!!

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If I hit myself hard enough maybe it could release the pain or at least it would prove that, I know, they are right.  That I agreed with them, I am awful and deserve to be hit.  Maybe if I showed them I know I deserved it they would stop, hurting me, rejecting me.  It used to work on my mom, when she was unhappy with me.  I learned a long time ago it was the only thing that did work.  But the people who I had been living with, the people who had thrown me out two weeks ago, didn’t see me punching my face or slamming arms into the closed window, as I sat in my car, sweating in August with no air conditioner on.

 

I wasn’t sure I could afford to rent my own place.  At the time I was only capable of working part time.  My Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program took several days out of the week, plus I didn’t know I was capable of anything.  At the time I had been living with my father, who l love, but not in the way that would make living with him healthy.  He would frequently go through my things, call me throughout the day trying to find my whereabouts and watch porn with the sound blasting and the door open.  My team of therapists were desperate for me to leave his home, the house I had grown up being objectified and emotionally battered in, but because I keep a parrot, who caring for was the only thing that consistently kept me alive, social services weren’t an option.  I would rather continue being treated somewhere between a child and a spouse by my father, than give up my feathery best friend.  My life at the time was what most people would call pathetic, so when a woman I was friends with invited me to live at her place with a “pay what you can” arrangement, I was thrilled.  I felt, almost, like a real person.

 

The home was not just with this woman and she and I were, not exactly, just friends.  Having a high sex drive, being on strong medication, and with no self-esteem, my sexual orientation was “if you like me I probably owe you sex”.  She was the only woman I had repeated encounters with over the years, but she knew that this was not about that.  She clearly stated that any sexual contact was over to make sure our domestic situation would remain secure.  I was to move in with her, her husband, their friend Terrance, a pet rat, (I love rats), and snake (snakes are tough and scare most people, also helping me feel more safe) I would share a bunk bed with Terrance who did not like chubby chicks, which I was a bit beyond at that point, and between our bunks lived the snake, who over-looked me in my sleep.  I felt secure and protected by fate; I felt safe.

 

In some ways we were a sweet bizarre little commune.  My friend Tracy didn’t work, so often when I got home there would be vegan dinner (I’m vegan which many people find annoying) waiting for me on the table.  And the four of us, with parrot, rat, and snake looking on, would have dinner, play cards, and watch movies.  My parrot had company all day and the companionship of the rat.  For the first time in since leaving the Psych-ward at the hospital I felt like I was part of a group.  I felt accepted and happy.

 

For about a month….

 

The moment came, that I am sure you could see coming, when I had to reject the threesome, out of fear it would leave me on the street.  What woman would want to live with the chick, she just watched her husband fuck.  In addition late night conversations with Terrance started to take a turn toward the sexual and life was becoming awkward.

Any person with a car in NYC will tell you having wheels is like, being an ugly chick with a really hot friend.  It’s common for me to be invited to drive people to parties I would otherwise not be asked to attend and with me moving in the couple assumed they had a built in chauffeur, and with me lacking the ability to say no, they often in fact did.  But there was a moment when Tracy and I had a misunderstanding about my ability to pick her up and drop her off.  I agreed to join Tracy at an event in Staten Island which I did not want to attend, and drive her home.  She assumed I would drive from inner New Jersey, where I was working that afternoon, to Brooklyn to pick her up, and back to Staten Island.  About 4 hours round trip for me.  I assumed she was going to take a 20 minute train ride to meet me.  We were both confused, and I was desperately apologetic.  I would have done just about anything to make-up to her what was, nothing more than a miscommunication on my part, as at the time if I had understood what she wanted I would have delivered on the long journey for her.  But this type of insubordination was too much for the couple to bear.  I mean how could I possibly think a woman like Tracy would ever take a subway to get to her event, when she has a scum bag with borderline living in her home?   I agreed with them.  I was truly worthless.  Tracy’s husband proceeded to terrorize me with messages to my phone and Facebook revealing private events from my past including my history of sexual abuse and the death of my mother.  He asked the world (my Facebook friends) to join in with him in hopes of creating enough pressure to get me to kill myself.

 

Of course they threw me out, I have a history of unstable, dysfunctional, romantic relationships, so being thrown out was nothing new to me, but they made me wait for two weeks to collect my things – which of course included my pet parrot.  These people had no respect for me and practiced a remote sect of paganism called Satanism.  I had not responded to the terrorization of Tracy’s husband, and I knew they were fishing for a way to get me to end my life.  What better way than hurting the one creature that I knew wouldn’t fly away?   I was terrified.

 

As I sat in my car contemplating suicide, I texted Samantha my oldest friend, to tell her what had happened to me.  With nowhere to go and unsure I could get myself to a hospital she told me to come-over.  I really didn’t want to.  I wanted to drive off a cliff, but I was programmed to do what others told me.  So now I had a temporary new commune.  But I knew it wasn’t mine.  Samantha was married with children.  Her intention was not for me to stay, rather to get me in a mindset that would enable me to re-enter my life.  I stayed there until it was time for me to retrieve my belongings.  Sleeping in her basement and helping with household chores.

 

Two weeks passed, with my parrot still in good health.  Tracy and her husband would be spared the agony of my presence, and Terrance, the man who had a failed sexual tension with me but had no reason to hate me, would be present.  I thought it would be “somewhat” okay, until I was 5 minutes late.  Terrance called me.  He screamed into the phone that he would not wait for me.  All my things including my parrot were going in the garbage.  I was alone, stuck in bad traffic with another five-minutes until my arrival.  On the recommendation of a friend I called for, and received a police escort, I was embarrassed to have needed one, but they helped.  I was able to collect my belongings, and be on my way in my car back to my fathers.

 

This lead to the scene of me in my car, with my parrot and belongings in tow, where my story started.  It should have been done and over, but Terrance, was furious with me for bringing the police into it.  I had been told many times that I must come alone and not invade their home with outsiders, which I had intended to respect until there was a direct threat on my parrot’s welfare.  I didn’t feel I deserved any compassion, but none of this shit was her fault.  Terrance called and texted me nonstop for an hour and a half.  He repeatedly told me my police escort was an illegal affront on him and the couple and that they were going to press charges.  He knew a cop and a lawyer and they both called this a misuse of the police.

 

I thought these people were my friends and cared about me and that I had messed up.  That if I had been born different, none of this would have happened.  I would have known better how to behave.  My parrot and I would still be part of this sweet family.  And although they could not see me beat myself, if I did it hard enough they may stop and forgive me for hurting them, and existing.

 

Then Terrance sent me the text that changed my life.  He let me know that the cops were going to come get me.  Calling them had been a jailable offence, and he knew an officer who knew how to track me through my phone, and who was on his way.  I believed I was a piece of crap, I believed I deserved to die, but I did not believe this.  So something clicked.  If he was lying about this, then what else could he be lying about?  And if he was lying, maybe that couple was as well?

 

Maybe everyone who used these types of terrorization to get me to do what they wanted was lying to me, and by cowering and agreeing with them maybe I was lying to myself.  I understood that Terrance had intended to hurt me while I collected my things.  My police escort had made this impossible for him so he was seeking-out another way.

 

During those two weeks Samantha repeatedly told me it was obvious I had strength that I stifled to make those around me feel more comfortable.  She did what she could to make me understand I had been, from years of childhood brainwashing, convinced that being strong and successful would lead to abuse and it was way easier to agree with my nothingness than fight someone who I didn’t want to hurt.  I still don’t want to hurt anyone.  I just spent 45-minutes capturing a cockroach in a paper cup so I could release him into the wild – hallway.

 

I had learned to be a loser.  At nine years-old my mother wanted me to be the concubine to an abusive gay teenager.  In order to keep me there she didn’t just tell me, but made sure I understood that I could not be truly loved.  Samantha was my best friend since the 3rd grade.  My mother did all she could to convince me she did not love me.  Like when she didn’t offer me a cupcake yet ate one when I visited her at about 10 years old, as proof she was not my real friend.  At an age where many girls listen to bed time stories about prince charming my mother would sit over me and tell me all the changes I have to make to satisfy my captor and would not let me go to sleep until I kissed his picture and told the piece of fiberglass I would love it forever.  For a time I understood my mother was sick and fought.  At around 10 and a half years old I refused, this caused months of my mother crying hysterically that she knew I was different, and that if I did not comply no one would ever love me.  I would live and die alone.  After a time I had forgotten who I wanted to be, kissed his picture with the love I felt for my mother, and over time understood wholeheartedly that I was unlovable and must do whatever it takes to make sure I satisfy the needs of those around me.  (As an adult my mother regretted this, and I regret she did not get to see me recover in her lifetime.) This may sound crazy to anyone other than those living with BPD.  But if you have it, or love someone who does you know many of us somehow feel in our bones that we are different, unworthy of being loved and deserving of abuse.  How many of us scream, “Bring on the pain,” when all we want or need is hug?

 

If you think people with BPD should feel as valuable, or as lovable as anyone else, and don’t understand where I am coming from, take a look online.  The level of hate speech against people living with this illness is astronomical, not to mention the people who study us, or are “supposed” to care for and help us, social workers and therapists, often misunderstand our conditions, and refuse to treat us.  How the fuck are you supposed to find a boyfriend when you can’t find a therapist?

 

But spending time with Samantha and then seeing Terrance changed all that for me.  After being with someone who actually loved me then being threatened by Terence I could tell the difference.  I could tell he wanted to hurt me, was gaining pleasure from doing so, and was angry I had deprived him of this.  I kissed my parrot, put on the air conditioner, and bought myself a giant soda.  From that moment on I loved and protected myself.  I spend time with friends who are good to me, and don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks.

 

When I started running a BPD group in 2013, no one from the group has stalked me, threatened me, or tried to seduce me.  Every member is unique and has much to offer this world.

 

 

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A Borderline on a Wire

ziplineJust because Sherry was one of my bff’s in high school doesn’t mean I want to deal with her bachelorette party. I left the past in the past a long time ago and am happy with it being that way. But I remember Sherry well. She was the girl who left high school for a better life in such a way that didn’t include me, and I really didn’t feel comfortable going.
I felt like if Sherry knew who I was now she wouldn’t want me there. I wanted to call her and scream into the phone, I have been hospitalized for borderline personality disorder, have a long history with pills, and because of all this I have done things nice people find unspeakable and feel most would turn their noses up at spending time with me and that includes you. But I couldn’t do that because of Samantha.
Believe it or not Samantha and I had been friends for about 3 decades, something most therapists feel would be impossible for someone like me. I met her in the 3rd grade. She was tough and played with the types of boys I was afraid of. Being around her has always made me feel a bit safer. In some senses I owe her my life, as she took me in for a few days to stop me from my last suicide plan. I sometimes feel it was her kindness at that time juxtaposed by the cruelty of some of my other friends that made me understand that it’s up to me to spend time with those who are good to me. I’m not sure if Samantha is just really patient or has a love of listening to tons of dramatic tales, but she has let me know that no matter how sick I can get she will be my friend.
“She wants to get the girls together to go zip lining and I want you to go.” Samantha made it clear that it was important to her that I go. With numerous children, and a controlling husband, she was thrilled for the escape into high school memories and that included me. After years of her picking me up off the floor, I felt obligated.
In the hospital I learned how to basically kill my past and in doing so was happy with myself for the first time in my life. The thought of playing “remember when”, in a hotel room, with a virtual stranger after flying through the air was enough to leave me paralyzed with fear under my extra heavy blanket for days before the trip. But that wasn’t the whole problem.
I was angry she left me for a better life years ago. Good for her, but now that I had finally become a proud, happy person she pops back into my life. Our only bond being the past I work so hard not to think about, and this “stranger” wants me to spend the weekend talking about it.
I was also in the process of moving in with Joseph, my boyfriend of two years, which had left me in a constant state of nervousness. What if after we move in together I find out he’s not who he’s been pretending to be. What if he falls for another woman and throws me out the door. Or my worst fears come true, he finds out that I actually do have a mental illness and throws me and all my things out the door. And although Joseph was the breadwinner I did pay part of the rent and moving expenses. In order to be able to afford to go on the zip lining trip, for a woman who wasn’t there for me when I was locked in a private hell, I had to give up dessert and wine for two weeks.
I met Sherry and Samantha at the upstate NY zip lining places parking lot. Having my car there gave me the illusion of an easy exit in case I couldn’t handle things and had to leave. I was hoping to be the first to arrive to give me a little time to unwind, but they were waiting for me in the parking lot.
My eye’s met Sherry’s and for a brief moment I felt like I had remembered her and her me and that it would be ok. I was about to say congratulations on your engagement when she chimed in with “O-M-G, How did you get so skinny?!” I haven’t had any dessert or wine in two weeks because of your stupid party is how. So you care more about how I look than how I am and by the way, my body….none of your business. But instead I laughed and said politely, “How was your trip up?”
She replied with her own deflection mirroring mine and said “Are you still living in Jersey City?” (Our hometown)
“No, I just moved to Harlem….I mean there are boxes”
She interrupts me with “Ew I hope it’s a good part. Are you safe there?”
Safe there? If you knew me at all you’d know I’m in love with my home and where it is and if you put it down again you may not be so safe.
But instead I say “I think so” I felt ashamed of what she would think if she knew how I had been living up until that point. And was very envious of the ivory tower she must be living in that made her think saying that to me was OK.
And safe! I’m about to be hooked to a wire and sent flying through the trees to commemorate your stupid wedding. I keep seeing the first scene from the film Cliffhanger in my head, where a woman plummets to her death begging Sylvester Stallone to save her. I’d really love to be underground in the subway next to a drunken teenage gang right now.
I’m not saying we had to walk up hill through the woods to be dramatic- that is exactly what we had to do. And the further we walked, the more I heard Sherry shout with glee that we girls were back together. I was starting to feel completely trapped. Samantha noticed the distressed look on my face and said, “I have asthma and can hardly breathe right now. If I can do it anyway so can you.” Because being seen is so important to me I was hoping she realized I wasn’t as afraid of the zip lining as I was feeling invaded by the entire event.
Fighting back the tears and feeling like I was going to jump out of my skin I took my first try at zip lining. I was attached to a high altitude wire and pushed along. I held myself up by a thread and was overwhelmed by the knowledge that I had no way of slowing myself down. The experience was about as much fun as the colposcopy I had endured a few months previously. When I reached the end, the tears came out on their own and I was totolaly humiliated.
And it’s not like we were still on the ground. We were high up in the trees all standing very closely on a tiny platform. I was overwhelmed by the awareness that I could plummet to my death at any moment I choose. As though he could hear my thoughts our guide tied me to the tree along with everyone else. I’m not the type to like someone tying me up, although vice versa is lovely, and this was the last straw. I was no longer able to hide my emotional overload from Sherry. She felt the best way to comfort me was to ask me to sing her the song “Circle of Friends” by Eddie Brickell the way I used to in high school.
Ugh! For a time, a long long time ago, I was that guitar playing singer, song writer, folk singer chick. If you’re reading this and you are the next Ani DiFranco that’s great. But I never was, and I am more embarrassed to talk about my wanna be singer days, than I am about my suicide attempts. I LOVE singing but after years of crying and screaming at the top of my lungs I’m not very good at it. The only creature that gets to hear me sing is my parrot and she gets mad at me if I do it for too long.
Erin, our trusty tour guide let us know that from then on it would get faster, longer, and higher. Words I would normally be excited to hear now brought dread to me and my legs felt weak. She let me know that if I was done, now was a good time to walk down since there was a ladder and we weren’t very high in the trees. Too overwhelmed to think, I gave Samantha that old look of please tell me what to do. It sucks to lose yourself to the point of not knowing what’s best but wonderful to know someone understands you enough to take over for you in these emotional moments. She said, “you’ve had enough, walk down.” So I did.
A pleasant, good looking, Australian mountain man in a red beat up jeep came to get me. As I climbed down Sherry yelled “Sharon how freakin’ hot is he? You did this on purpose. You know you wanted to get lucky this weekend!”
The tears dried up and now I’m angry. Long gone are the days I would have asked Gunther, the mountain man, to take me to a bar, and convinced both of us that this was a love that couldn’t be. How was she to know the heartache I’ve endured and how lucky I feel to have moved in with a good man in Harlem, who shows me I’m worthy of good and had been helping me hold my illness at arm’s length for two years and he doesn’t deserve this bullshit.
I think, fuck her. I’m grateful to be on the ground and away from the drama in the trees. I feel a great deal of relief and since I love the woods, jeeps, and I want to get something out of my 200$, I ask Gunther to take me for a ride. I’ve gotta get something back from my having to give up my lovely dessert and wine. You know I am Jewish.
He agrees and after a few awkward moments. Gunther said, “I was watching you. You were holding on so tight” He was right. As we drove he asked me why I didn’t let go of the rope and enjoy the ride. “Why didn’t you like it, was it the speed?” “No, I love speed” “Height?” “I’m not afraid of heights. It hurt my hands to hold myself up.” “You’re not supposed to hold yourself up. The harness does that.” “I couldn’t stop.”
“Hahaha so this is about control”
Only days before Joseph had accused me of being controlling and I had to face the fact that I can be. I have been hurt too many times to feel safe in the unknown. In attempting to let Joseph know all I need to keep my illness under wraps I have at times pushed hard enough to render him not wanting to speak to me for an entire day.
“Are you a person who feels afraid when you’re not in control?”
None of your business and how the fuck did you know? My illness renders me not in control of my actions from time to time. In order to create a better life for myself I do all I can to control my environment and therefor control my behaviors. I was silent.
“Well this is only fun when you are willing to let go”
“Are you afraid to climb trees?” “No I would love to climb that tree.” Referring to the one my friends were now high up in and strung to.
“Well, then, I could string you up and you could climb that tree and give it another try. I felt seen, understood, and realized if I didn’t try one more time, I would never give myself this chance again. And there was that issue of the money I had spent.
In learning how to take my power back from those who had hurt me I also learned how to give all my power willingly to someone else when the time is right. I did this earlier in the day with Samantha, and although Gunther was a stranger, he was my only chance of trying this again so I did just that with him. I have no memories of my friends greeting me at the trees although I am sure they did. I do remember Gunther telling Erin to string me up and let me go next, and then counting to 3 as I took off. After that, I let go, was completely in the moment and flying.
Later that night I had fun. We drank, ate too much and danced by ourselves in the hotel room. It was the kind of party that can only happen when a group of people who had shared an adventure could have, if I hadn’t gone back to give it another try, I’d probably would have sat outside the hotel room drunkenly talking to the night sky about how it sucks to be different. Instead I was beaming with joy. Zip lining was more fun than I could have imagined. Realizing I had no control, I let go and flew through the trees. My heart pounding and I felt totally free and alive.
I never told Sherry about my illness, my history with pills, or my desperate desire to burn my past to an unrecognizable degree, because it didn’t matter. She was patient with me when I needed it and so I was patient with her. And we celebrated her finding the love and the life she always wanted.
In an effort to make my environment feel safe I had been holding on so tight that I was hurting myself and the life Joseph and I were trying to create. I saw that when I let go and enjoyed the ride fear could be replaced by excitement. Not everything unknown and unpredictable sucks, and that includes old friends.

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The day I had myself committed.

Turning 37 in an insane asylum, oh sorry, mental institution, isn’t as fun as you’d think it would be. Of course, just like anytime you go away you can learn new things, meet new interesting people, and try new activities – including drugs. That is what I had planned to do anyway.

My ex, David, and I were all set to go to Amsterdam for my Birthday. It was going to be the first special plans made for the event since my mom’s death five years ago. Her death was quick, traumatic, and lead to me being somewhat estranged from the rest of my family. My mother was the kind of woman who made such a big deal of my adult birthdays that you’d be surprised if Batman himself didn’t pop out of one of my cakes. My birthday since then had been little acknowledged as an irritant, so I was thrilled to be doing something special. I heard from friends that David, who broke up with me in an explosion of anger which had been building toward me since the second date, went to Amsterdam on his own and had a great time. And, because some of my friends were as loyal as you can expect someone like me to have, David heard all about my “vacation”.

After 37 years of abuse, the hospital was where I had to be. When I say 37 I mean the majority of every minute of my life. My mind only took little breaks from telling me how awful I was. Responsible for everything from my childhood sexual violations to my mother’s death. Family members had voiced that if I had not been such a sexy kid none of the trauma I had withstood would not have taken place, including my mother’s death. According to one family member she gave herself cancer metaphysically because of the sexual abuse I had asked for. Besides this hospital had a web site that made staying there look like they would give guests the kind of treatment and drugs that would make you feel like you were on the beach in Puerto Vallarta working with Angels on a journey of self-discovery.

I didn’t want to leave David. Not because I loved him, and after two months of him acting like sex with me was as appealing as running his head into a grinder, I knew he didn’t love me. But I was under the impression that this was the best I would ever have it and he had a really great apartment on the west side of Manhattan in an area I don’t think I will ever be in a position to afford. Because I refused to accept my fate I spent the next 2 months couch surfing and pet sitting. Included in the mix was staying with Jessy –  an old ex who I was never able to train, and was only good when I gave him the treats I had long ago stopped wanting him to have. I know it’s what every girl dreams of.

Carrying a suitcase filled with enough clothing to last me a month all around Manhattan in the hottest months took a lot out my normal comfort zone of self-hatred to a stinky, sweaty, desperation. I had lost all will to live but lacked the sense of adventure to do anything about it. I like fairy tales of heaven, and theories of eternal bliss but, as a non-religious Jew, had been brought up to believe that death meant the end of consciousness. And there is nothing I fear more than nothing. (I know, I know, they are the same thing, equal, and one can never be more than the other. Nothing=nothing not nothing>nothing)

I was told at the hospital would have an air conditioner, my own bed, and because everyone would accept me as crazy, I wouldn’t have to talk to or be nice to anyone who annoyed me. Party!!! But first I had to put my affairs in order. By this I mean I had tickets to see my favorite band, Tears for Fears, perform. I may be stinky and suicidal but there is no need for me to miss that.

I started my new life as a mental patient a few days later. If nothing else I could kill myself after I got out. I was ready to give up my freedom, something people usually only do willingly on their wedding day. Since getting there is half the fun I took a cab. My holiday started with tons of paper work and hours of waiting alone. Good for the psyche. I wore the official Tears for Fears T-shirt that I bought with the money I raised by scalping the ticket meant for David. As I was being checked in they took my comforting T-shirt along with all my clothes and gave me a brand new paper outfit, sexy! David would love this.

With no TV and the other patients busy talking to themselves I was bored out of my, busy listing all the reasons to hate myself, mind. I was however lucky enough to keep my books. A “Mars Venus Starting Over” number, because when in a crazy person ward it’s good to think about starting a new relationship. I also had my book of gratitude, keeping this kind of thing is a self-help technique designed to help you focus on the positive. Dear Book of Gratitude on my 37th birthday I am grateful that the guard let me know that if I stop screaming they won’t make me wear “special” clothing and that my sister brought me vegan cookies.

My third book was a copy of the Satanic Bible. Now, I’m not a religious person but at this stage of my life I had the kind of odd ball, douche-bag friends that would be involved in this world and felt this was the book to give me confidence. I did read it. And although it made me uncomfortable at times it had far less sex and violence then the more well-known Bible.

Because I was being good I got my own room. The porcelain walls were cold, hard, and blue, good for a midday head banging session. The room was barren save a “bed,” blue of course, covered in the kind of cold sticky vinyl designed to be easy to clean after one bleeds all over it and good for getting sensitive skin to stick and eventually burn. The room was way too big for the furniture making it clear how many people would later be standing in their discussing what was wrong with me and how to best drug me.

When I stepped into the 62 degree room my eyes teared up. For the first time I can remember I felt safe. Here I was being watched so no one could hurt or sexually violate me. I was closed into my crazy, cold, blue, cocoon, and womb. I didn’t care or notice that I couldn’t leave. I didn’t know if I’d ever want to. It sucked that I was cold, stuck to the bed and hated life, but after 2 months of sweating I didn’t care. For the moment I was home. It didn’t matter that there would be no more playing with my parrot, red wine, Star Trek, fresh air, or the ability to leave.

Dear Book of Gratitude on my 40th birthday I am grateful that my life and my illness got bad enough that I was forced to take the extreme measures 3 years ago. If not for that I would not be the healthy eccentric I am today. And for the vegan cake my boyfriend Joseph made me.

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