The thing that’s been staying my hand from the keyboard over the last couple of weeks, besides a tsunami of costume work that recently hit my shore, is an indecision about what to do with this blog. Sure, I have a lot of interests and I’m decidedly busier these last few months. I could write about a myriad of topics. Food? Cooking? Love it. Wish I had more time and money to devote to it. Lingerie? Ditto. Sex? Yeah, I’ve got some stories that will make you drop your glass of Pepsi in your lap and exclaim “Oh, my!” Sewing, artwork, burlesque? Yes, I have thoughts and experiences to describe. There are things to say. It’s just — how much do you want to know? And how much do I want you to know?
The compulsive answer is: everything.
I’m a difficult person to know. I’m intensely shy. I find large groups of people collected for the purpose of socializing more than a bit intimidating. (Mingling? Networking? Fuck me. I’m way more comfortable in a corner with a glass of bourbon. I’m weird at parties.) But when I do get to know someone and ‘let them in’, as they say, I start spilling it double time. I purge. Discretionary speech is stomped. I’m normally so self-conscious and neurotic about participating in any meaningful conversation, that once I’m given the chance I’m like a little kid at an amusement park. Only instead of riding the teacups, I’m telling tenuous acquaintances about the duration and viscosity of my last period. And yeah, it usually turns out how you’d expect: with that all too familiar awkward chuckle accompanied by a defriending on facebook a few days later.
But the thing is, I’m not actually friends with you. Maybe in reality I am, but in this context I don’t know you. I can’t see you and I can’t see your reaction. Hell, I can’t even be sure that you, as a reader, actually exist. And because I have the magical control of my speech through editing and grammatical deliberation, I don’t have to worry about accidentally making a derisive comment about your mom.
With that in mind, I’m going to indulge myself here. I’m going to confess. Best case: you’re real and you’re entertained, maybe even moved. Worst case: you’re real and you’re maybe going to avoid eye contact when you see me in class next. Worse worst case: you’re not real and no one is reading this. All of which I can live with.
So, let’s dive in.
Soul-bearing truth #1: I’m sick in the head.
In the obvious way, sure. Maybe my taste isn’t what you’d call elegant. And my sense of humor is a little on the odd side. But I mean ‘sick in the head’ in the most literal sense. Like so many other people (enough to occasionally be able to commiserate about it, but few enough to still feel isolated) I have a fucked brain. Depression– sometimes severe, anxiety, killer mood swings, panic attacks. All of that good stuff that drives the psychiatric community. At it’s best, I function completely normally and don’t even think about it. When it was at it’s worst, I was rationally weighing out the pros and cons of jumping off of a bridge.
It affects every aspect of my life. How I interact with people, my sex life, my productivity, my appetite. My ability to do anything. From the simplest tasks to the weightiest challenges. Everything is tempered by my weirdo frontal lobes.
If you know me, you might be thinking that that doesn’t sound like the Ray Ray you know. Awesome. That means I’m doing a good job of managing it. Because I choose not to take medication, I have to continuously make choices that counteract it. (I’m not knocking medication. If it works for you, super. Me — it made me into a slack-jawed unhorny zombie, feeling nothing. Beige. Meds made me into a beige person. I would much rather be a color, even if it’s a nutso color.) Sometimes they’re small choices and sometimes they’re life-altering whoppers. About four years ago, when I was neck-deep in my first (and only so far, thankfully) really traumatic depressive episode, I had to make some seriously big decisions. Like moving to California. Sunshine fucking helps, people. I don’t care what people say about Los Angeles. I saw more people smiling on a daily basis there than in Chicago. It’s all that vitamin D. And maybe the plastic surgery. I went back to school, got a degree in Fashion Design, something I always wanted to do but was afraid that I couldn’t. I graduated cum laude. I began to learn that having projects and goals were good ways to prevent being a sobby, fearful train-wreck.
I got a dog. And this is where this post is going to sway towards the tear-jerker, life-changing romantic comedy crap where the protagonist is a depressed thirty-something who finds inspiration and healing in the most unlikely of places. (Based on the book. Starring Julia Roberts. Barf.) Including my puppy girl, there are three things that have made the biggest difference in my mopey, sad-sack life:
- Mike. It was a fucking godsend to have a husband who simply acknowledged that something real was happening to me and that I wasn’t just a moody bitch. He’s been amazing. Even though he really got gipped. My depression hit like a freight train right after we got married. Instead of a blushing bride swathed in frothy lingerie, he got a pile of mess with mascara streaks down her cheeks in a ball under the sheets. My god, how much porn he must have looked at during that time. But he’s still here. And he still loves me. When everyone else bailed, he stayed. I don’t know what I would do without him. If only he would close the shower curtain after showering. It drives me crazy.
- Augie ”Fatty” Louise. I’m actually tearing up a little bit as I’m thinking about how my dog turned my life around. We first met her when visiting my mom in Alabama right before we moved to L.A. She was abandoned on the road near her house and since she was clearly a Pit Bull mix, no one wanted to take her on. My mom was feeding her until she figured out what to do with her. When I set eyes on her I felt such an immediate connection to her, it was like my womb left my body, ran into my mom’s garage and gave birth to this funny looking creature who came running into my arms, tail wagging furiously and tongue flopping. Besides my husband, she is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She gets me up in the morning. She makes me grin like a loon. I laugh at her, roll around with her, cuddle with her every day. I adore the moment before I put the key in the front door because I know that she’s waiting behind it, completely ecstatic to see me. If that’s not therapy, I don’t know what is.
- Burlesque. Go ahead and roll your eyes. I’m doing it, too. I mean, come on. I meant it when I said I’m the depressed girl who finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places (starring Rene Zelwegger and Luke Wilson as ‘Mike’.) But what can I say? I’m very goal-oriented and it’s given me a creative outlet and goals. I am not, however, going to step up onto my feminist soapbox to cry out about how, by taking off my clothes, I’m empowering my female psyche and finding myself. I’m not hollering “fuck you, I’m beautiful” to an audience of haters. Burlesque isn’t therapy. In fact, sometimes it makes me cry, and curse, and bite my nails. Sometimes it makes me crazy. But I’m into it. It engages me, makes me excited. It challenges me. I need that. And when you’ve spent years living a desperate sort of existence, it’s nice to feel grounded in something.
I could add a few more essentials to that list like yoga and a good diet, a supportive mom. I wish that I could add good friends to the list, but well, when you’re a basket case people tend to not stick around. Most of the friends I had before the depression are only faux friends on facebook now. I used to be really upset about that, but I get it. I can’t really hold it against them. Everyone has their own problems and life doesn’t work out like a very special episode of ‘Friends.‘ I’m grateful for the people who came back, few though they are. And, I don’t know. It worked out pretty well in the end. Working through the depression, I’ve managed to reinvent myself. I’m more in tune now with who I am than I ever was before I was diagnosed. I’m able to look at myself with a critical eye, assess what’s good for me, who’s good for me. I’m able to recognize all of those shitty, confidence crushing thoughts as the brain shit that they are. I’m able to feel good in my own skin, even call attention to myself. And I’m now very skilled in discerning the difference between a legitimate bad mood or stress, and one induced by a chemical imbalance. I’m very aware of triggers and I go out my way to prevent them, even if that means turning my back on some people or situations. And sometimes that really, really sucks. Sometimes I want to be the outgoing, happy, friendly girl with the flashing smile as she tosses her hair back and laughs, always surrounded by her girls who have her back. Sometimes I want to go shopping and have brunch with my BFF. But I’ll content myself with being a moody, glitter-coated, naked designer with a pretty rad g-string collection and a handful of friends who are good for me. It makes for a more interesting brunch date, anyway. But wait. No one ever invites me to brunch because I’m sad and awkward. Shit. At least I have the dog.