And Now For Something Completely Different

In case you didn’t know, September is Suicide Awareness Month.  I know, fun times!  (Many trigger warnings on suicide ahead, because that’s pretty much all we’re going to talk about here, so if you need to dip out, I more than understand.)

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, then you know I’ve struggled with Depression off and on my whole life, and that this is a subject that is very important to me.

If you suffer from Depression, then you know how hard it is to describe it to someone who’s never had it.  It’s so much more than being “sad”.  Depression makes you feel like negative space in the shape of a human, an entity that can’t even muster the energy to cry anymore, where it feels like it doesn’t even matter how much you don’t matter.  It’s incredibly difficult to reach out for help when you’re at the bottom of that well.

So!  I’m going to pause from dick jokes and judging people’s eyebrows for the week and share something a little (a lot) different with you, and then we can discuss, if that’s cool.  It’s something that I wrote on the subject of suicide.  Two somethings, actually.

They’re, oh my god, poems that are in this month’s issue of The Hunger journal.  I know.  Poems!  Just bear with me.

Like all sad/angry girls in high school, I was both a painter and a poet.

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Acrylic and tempura on 26″ x 24″ board, 12th grade.  What parent wouldn’t be thrilled to have their 17-year old daughter bring this one home?  “Look what our little girl made in school!”

I started painting again last year and started writing poetry again a couple months ago after a 25-year hiatus.  Poetry and painting were the only things I was even semi-decent at in high school, and they were really the only reasons I ever bothered to show up to class.

I wasn’t sure if I still had it in me at all, so I gave it a shot and submitted a few new poems to just a handful of journals.  I was truly blown away when The Hunger accepted two of them and gave them a safe and supportive home.  These are actually my first published poems ever.  (At 43!  It’s never too late, friends.)

These two poems are about the early deaths of two of my favorite painters.  Click the links in pink below to read the poems on The Hunger journal’s site:

Death, Jackson Pollock

About:  Jackson Pollock struggled with what they now believe was Depression and Bipolar Disorder, and self-medicated with much, much alcohol.  Famous for his “drip paintings”, he died in a drunk driving car crash at the age of 44.  (44!  For the love of Zod, he was my age.)  It was officially declared an accident, but witness accounts say he crashed the car deliberately.

His mistress, Ruth Kligman, who was also in the car, survived and went on to be the mistress of Willem deKooning, another one of my favorite artists.  Willem deKooning’s wife referred to Kligman as “the pink mink”.  I would have certainly called her worse.  Kligman’s best friend, Edith Metzger, was also killed in the crash.

 

Death, Mark Rothko

About:  Mark Rothko had a successful career as an artist.  Like way, way successful – for his entire career.  Famous especially for his red “color fields”, he died at the age of 66 after suffering with Depression and slashing his arms with his painter’s knife until he severed an artery (as well as taking an overdose of barbituates).  Alone, on the floor in his kitchen, he died one of the most successful artists of the 20th century, from the very same painter’s knife that he used to make his art.

I can’t take that.  I cannot take that image.  As an artist, it haunts me in my spine.  His death makes me cry every single time I think about it or look at one of his paintings, and I cried off and on for a whole day when I wrote the last lines of this poem.

Depression doesn’t discriminate, whether you’re wildly successful or living in the gutter.  It’s an equal opportunity disorder, and it’s killing people every day.  Suicide rates in the U.S. are actually rising.  Depression is a health crisis and a goddamned epidemic.

I’ve written another dozen of these poems and I’m planning to make a chapbook of them along with creating accompanying paintings about artists who left us too soon due to untreated mental illness.  (I’m hoping to donate the profits to mental health charities if I can find someone to publish it.  I don’t know what else to do, I just feel like I have to do something.)      

As author Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess we all know and love says, “Depression lies.”  It tells you that everyone would be better off without you.  That this is just the way things are.  That’s there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  That you’re out of options.

Let’s all say it together:  Depression lies.

I wrote these poems because if you’re an artist, there can often be an added obstacle to seeking help.  Everyone tells you that as an artist you’re supposed to be “tortured” and that it’s normal.

Maybe you feel that you write or paint or create from the darkest part of yourself, and you’re afraid that if you “fix” that part, that you won’t be able to make your art anymore.  If your entire identity is your art, then not being able to make art anymore is like death in itself.

You suffer in silence because Depression tells you that getting treatment will change who you are for the worse, even when you’re so low that you curse each new day that you wake up alive, angry and numb that you have to face yet. another. day.  That’s when Depression whispers in your ear, “Hey – you think this is bad?  It’ll be even worse if you do something about me!”

You suffer in silence because you think “tortured” is just the way artists and writers are.  Maybe you’ve been taught that suffering builds character.  Maybe you think were meant to live this way.  You’re just one of those people who “spends too much time inside their head”.  These are lies that Depression has told me I don’t know how many times in my life when I was down in the well.  Just suffer.  It’s who you are.

If you’re trying to make a living from your art, you more than likely have limited or no access to mental healthcare on top of everything else.

What do I want?

I want the normalization of the “tortured artist” and “tortured writer” to stop being a thing. 

I want people to have access to resources that teach them ways to take care of themselves and make their art at the same time.

I want to start a dialogue about Depression, suicide, and artists, be they painters, writers, poets, dancers, sculptors, or musicians – and what the communities that rely on and serve artists can do to help:  schools, galleries, writing workshops, museums, art fairs, record labels, dance studios, and community centers.

I want posters in classrooms, formal discussions in about how to spot Depression in ourselves and our peers, mental health lessons to be added to curricula, support groups, foundations, you name it.  I want people to talk about this instead of suffering in silence.

And I’ll tell you what else – I want the people who make money off the backs of artists to pony up for it.  I want them to give away free ad space for suicide hotlines in their magazines and journals, foster a network of mental health professionals that they can refer their artists to, hell, just ask their artists how they’re doing, donate some profits from gallery sales or book sales to mental health charities, start a charity of their own.  

Take care of yourselves, folks, and if you’re struggling, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  Don’t listen to the lies that Depression puts into your head.

Thanks for listening.  I promise next week we’ll be back to dick jokes and eyebrow judging and whatnot.  🙂

Wrestling The Tin Man

A few years back, I spent a crazy day working on-set with a professional wrestler (who shall remain nameless).  One of my favorite journals, Star 82 Review, was kind enough to give a home to my little story about it.

You can find it here:  Wrestling The Tin Man

If you care to offer any guesses as to this wrestler’s identity, I wouldn’t bother!  Sadly, I will not be able to confirm or deny, as I do not enjoy being sued and whatnot.  I’m not a fan of receiving cease and desist letters – unless it’s one of those that I get every month from Wayne Newton.  They smell like his hair cologne!

This journal is available in print, too, so isn’t that exciting, sassypants?!  😊 You can buy it here if you feel so inclined!

I bought two copies so that when I’m all old and washed up (about 6 months from now), I can show it to the otters I’ve trained to take care of me in my old age and say, “Before I lost my hands in that Valentine’s Day fireworks “accident” at Wayne Newton’s ranch, I used to be able to write stories about the weird things that have happened in my life!” and then the otters will all look at each other, nod in agreement, and then hold a pillow over my face until I stop moving, and then escape out the wall like that guy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Thanks for being awesome and hanging out with me here every week.  I friggin’ loved writing this story and I have the most fun with you folks and I’m so glad you’re here.

I couldn’t do this without…

YOU!

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When Your Pants Shrink on The 250th Wash

“Don’t get on the scale.  Ever.  It’s just a number, and it doesn’t really correspond with your health or your fitness level.  So throw it out!  Never step on a scale again!”

I had an eight year period of my life where I embraced this philosophy.  After being fairly small for most of my life, I gave up the scale in my late 20s and what do you think happened?

Did I feel unchained from watching my figure?  Did I gain a newfound sense of confidence?

No.

I put on forty pounds.

I know what you’re thinking.  It was probably because I was putting on muscle!  Was I really fit under that doughy layer of marshmallow fluff?

For some people, I’m sure that’s the case, but it was most certainly not the case for me.  I personally chunked up for a few reasons, and none of them had anything to do with having too much muscle mass.

The first reason for My Own Personal Chunkening was that I ate anything I wanted, anytime I felt like it, until I felt uncomfortably full – and I mean packing it in.

Wendy’s Double Cheeseburger, fries, and a Frosty for lunch?  Thank you!  And not just as a treat.  Every day.  Then round off the workday afternoon with some cookies, maybe a bag of chips or two.

Dunkin’ Donuts sausage, egg, and cheese on a bagel as a midnight snack, after already having eaten three meals and two snacks that day?  Please pull forward and pay at the first window.

Brownie sundae at every restaurant meal?  I would order a brownie sundae and when the other person with me would say, “We’ll split it!” I had absolutely no qualms about giving them the look of death, saying, “No,” and then inhaling the sundae like it was my last day on Earth.

People loved this.  Any time I shoved an entire slice of pizza into my mouth, my cheeks expanding out to those of a hamster, they practically applauded.  People love to encourage bad behavior for some reason, I assume so they don’t feel so bad about their own?

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This is a good look and you know it.

The second reason was that I sat at a desk-job all day.  I did zero exercise.  Literally none.  I was so unfit, I was constantly out of breath even just walking fast, and my joints hurt all the time.  Knees, hip joints, even my finger joints.  I wasn’t even 35 and I hurt all over.

The third reason was that I was perpetually very stressed out and under-slept.  I was out playing shows with the band at night and still waking up at 6am for my 8-to-5 day job every morning.  I dragged myself into work in the morning on 2-3 hours sleep regularly, and I was all kinds of messed up and constantly sick.

I was so exhausted that I felt I had earned the right to stuff my face and slowly become one with the couch.  Hadn’t I suffered enough with my financial problems, stressful workload, and unsupportive boyfriend?  The least I deserved was fresh-baked cookies and an episode (or eight) of The Golden Girls.

And I tell ya what, my thick ol’ body onstage with the band?  People loved it, especially the women in the crowd.  They couldn’t believe the confidence I displayed onstage despite my yuuuuuuuuge ass.  They were encouraging, and sweet, and awesome, and always made me feel like a million bucks.  I was never actually as confident as I appeared to be, but I felt like I owed it to women to show them that they could be confident no matter what size they were.

The reality was that deep down, anytime I saw a picture of myself, I would get very upset, delete it, and spend the rest of the day freaking out about my double chin.  Clothes didn’t fit me unless I put on practically head-to-toe Spanx, and I had to wear biking shorts under my dresses so that my thighs didn’t rub together.  I sat down at my kitchen table one time, and snapped a leather belt I was wearing right in half at the back.

I knew I’d put on weight, but I didn’t think it was that much.  As someone who’s exceptionally skilled at living in denial, I made up every excuse in the book when I split a pair of pants that I’d had and worn on a weekly basis for ten years.  “Oh, the washer must have shrunk these!  On the 250th wash!”

I went to the doctor for the first time in a lot of years, and they made me get on a scale.  When the little metal slider thing clicked into place and the number was read aloud, I felt my knees go weak.  I could not believe how much I weighed.  I had estimated that I weighed about 30 pounds LESS than the number that was staring back at me on the scale.  Holy ballz.  I’m only 5’4″.  When you’re that short, every 5 pounds puts you up at least another dress size.

I had finally had enough of feeling like crap all the time, so I started working out, and kind of watching what I ate.  I lost about ten pounds, and I was really happy with it.  Then the ex-boyfriend dropped a nuclear bomb on my life and I lost ten more pounds in one week.  (Related – I don’t recommend grief-rage vomiting as a diet.)

Then I straightened my ass up, decided I needed to get healthy, and signed up for a paleo local food delivery service and lost another twenty-five pounds.  I started exercising just 15-20 minutes a day, six days a week.  (That paleo diet made me lose weight like crazy.  I literally could not stop losing weight on it, and eventually had to start adding stuff like bread and pasta back in to even maintain my weight.)

I wasn’t surprised at the people told me I looked great with the weight loss, but I was surprised at how many people were total dicks about it.  I mean, really, really surprised.  They would ask outright how much I weighed (something that would NOT have been cool when I was overweight), scrutinized my diet, accused me working out for hours every day, and there was even a rumor going around that I had developed an eating disorder.

When I was inhaling pizza and cheeseburgers until I was so full that it was physically painful and I could barely move, nobody accused me of having an eating disorder.  They cheered me on.  When I stopped eating pizza, people gossiped that I needed to go to a clinic.  It was really weird.

So don’t let random unsubstantiated tips like “Don’t get on the scale!” take over your life.  I get on the scale at least a few times a week so that I know when I need to tone it back on the pies, because it works for me.  Do what works for you.  Paleo worked for me, might not work for you.  Running 10 miles a day might work for you, doesn’t work for me.

And the washer totally shrunk those pants.  On the 250th wash!