Adventure in Breaking/Mending

Eight weeks ago something happened. Six weeks ago something worse happened. One week ago more brush was shoved on the fire.

It’s not a new topic for me, especially in the last couple of years, but try as I might, try as others might, I won’t stop talking about it.

Eight weeks ago, between eating lunch and picking up a comic to take to his next city, I stopped at the home of a person I know. Someone I had spoken with regularly. Someone I considered a friend. In the course of less than half an hour, everything changed.

I was able to take myself out of the situation before it became desperate. But “no” wasn’t a viable answer. “This isn’t why I came over,” was also unaccepted. “I don’t want to redo my makeup” was a good reason. “I’m on my period” granted me enough space to get up and leave, but not enough space to have control to stop things.

I picked up the comic and went about my weekend.

Six weeks ago, I was feeling good. I met up with someone and lost complete control of the situation. I’ll continue to spare you details. I got home in the middle of the night, uncontrollably sobbing. I knew the right things to do. I knew to call the police. I knew not to shower. I knew those are the things you’re supposed to do. Another thing you should do, if you’re able, is take care of yourself, whatever that looks like. So I did. I showered. I took my clothes off. In that order.

I did something I haven’t done before though. I reached out to people immediately. Everyone was asleep, but in the morning so many people were affirming. So many people kept my mind safe. My dear friend, who is far away, encouraged me to go to the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. My dear friend, who is down the street, hugged me while I sobbed on him.

I called the Sexual Assault Treatment Center, because I didn’t know how it worked. She said to come in immediately. I asked, “Can I wait an hour? I have a job interview in 15 minutes.” She called me a toughie.

Throughout an hour-long job interview, I held it together. I needed this job. She asked how I handle stressful situations. I refrained from saying, “I haven’t cried once or given pause that something is wrong in this interview, have I?”

My dear friend, who hurried back from out of town, met me at the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. I met with a forensic nurse, a police detective, and a woman from victims assistance. I had a full exam done. I only cried once. She was kind. She was patient. She took my time, not hers. Some times when we interact with people who need kindness and patience, we offer them patience on our own time. She did not do this. She gave me time to breathe. She waited until I said okay. I know it’s her job to act this kindly with victims. We could all stand to work this kindly with everyone.

My dear friend waited in the lobby for two hours. Her phone died. She read every pamphlet. She waited on my time. She was kind. She is kind.

Another friend far away shared my assailants picture. He told the story. He checked with me and then told anyone who would listen. Profiles were removed. People were talking, in the best ways. He shared the truth, not the easy parts.

The next day I had a gynecological exam to get checked for my tumorous cysts. The nurse was kind. She talked to me about her own trial. The RN was not kind. She was cold and shaming. I scheduled another appointment for an ultrasound, because the RN didn’t believe me. It was five weeks later.

I stayed open. I kept talking. I asked for help, for company. I was granted this more times than I can explain. Food was brought to my home. Kindness after kindness.

Two weeks later I had a second interview for the same job. I hadn’t slept in four days. I was certain I wouldn’t get it. It was a terrible interview. I was exhausted. I was beaten. I was destroyed.

The next day I received a call from my doctor’s office. It wasn’t just my fears. Other unwanted news came. Nothing uncommon, just unpleasant.

Three weeks went by, and it became a problem for some people. This made me stronger. My survival and my means of survival were problematic for some people. I vowed to become immortal out of spite.

At four weeks, I wanted nothing, but hugs. I also wanted to never be touched. I was watching as people I knew were having pretty serious allegations brought up against them. I was watching and being pulled in. People were contacting me, as if I’m an authority on consequences. The only consequences I understand are my own, the ones I face every day. I watched possible (albeit likely) assailants keep friends, which is a type of affirmation of those actions. While I was losing people for being dramatic, for causing problems.

Do you know why someone talking about rape seems dramatic? I do. Because trauma is dramatic. Because tragedy is drama. Because truth is dramatic.

This only made me louder.
“I wish I could talk my way out of being raped the way rapists talk their way out of trouble.”
“So we’re clear. A rapist hears the word ‘no’ and expects that to mean ‘yes.’ But when accused the rapist is like ‘I didn’t rape her.’ Apparently only his ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

I started to feel more isolated. It was silly. Weeks prior I was surrounded, literally and figuratively. Friends from all over were reaching out to me. Nonetheless, I began to fear I had worn out my welcome on asking for favors. I’m not quick to ask for help, but this time as a means of survival I knew I needed to. Coming up the stairs at home and collapsing to my knees sobbing, I knew I needed help. I had reached out to someone I was told was a therapist. They proved to be a crazy person that would only escalate my issues.

I felt alone. I was not alone. I felt alone. I felt empty. I felt lost. I felt alone.

Loud noises began to affect me. My parents’ dogs barking made me terrified and panicked. Thunder made me panicked. A dear friend brought me earplugs and other kindnesses.

At a show, I wore my “please-don’t-rape-me” jeans that I bought eight weeks ago. I told my friends not to touch me and to make sure no one else did. I did not keep it together. I left in the middle of the show. Broken. I had stayed because I couldn’t be alone, but the music was loud, the voices were loud.

Week five I was fine again. The dogs and I were fine. I could cuddle my dog again.

Creative 30 for 30 started again, and I could force myself to put some of the things in my head to good use. I started baking again. I didn’t start passively baking. I have no one to give baked things to. I started baking to heal. I started baking more than just that one cupcake Kristen Wiig made for herself in Bridesmaids. I started making full pies. I made pies for healing. I recorded recipes. I made the same pie twice. I improved on pie. I improved on pie to improve myself. I taught myself new skills to show myself I can do more. I watched Moana eight times.

I went to my ultrasound. The tech was kind. The tech took my time. She made six marks on the image of my single ovary. She paused. She asked if I wanted children. I turned my face as tears grew in my eyes. I’ve been in pain again for a couple of months. When I finally saw my doctor she explained I had several cysts in my ovary. They ranged in size from 0.5 cm to 1.3 cm. She explained that they would likely dissipate. She explained that in my case they needed to be monitored closely because of my history. She said it was Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It explained so much about my last year. It explained so much. It still scared me so much. It still does. Of course, it does.

I also made it one whole year writing affirmations. It’s not been a full year since I moved them to this platform, but I’d brought myself a full year on the strength of my own mind. I’ve continued. I will continue.

At five weeks I also found out I got that new job. I found out I’d be working in an incredibly life-giving, safe, and affirming space. I could walk to work again. I could pay my bills again. I could be motivated to fight PCOS simply by doing my daily work.

Six weeks/eight weeks later I started my new job. I love my new job. I’ve been doing research on diet options to make PCOS more manageable. I’ve continued to reach out to people. I’ve broken my own heart this week. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve cried on the phone with someone I haven’t heard from since I told them what happened because I felt abandoned. This crying went unnoticed.

In eight weeks my nightmares have come back. In eight weeks several people have taken themselves out of my life because I’ve been too much. In eight weeks I’ve cycled through peace and pain. In eight weeks I’ve screamed and cried. I’ve gone silent. I’ve pushed myself. I’ve been pushed. I’m not healed. I’m not cured. I am still moving. I am healing. I am mending. Pieces of me are coming back together. (please, ignore that Ashley Simpson reference. I can’t take it out now, but I don’t want it there either).

Some times for no provoked reason, I still fill with all manner of sadness and pain. It doesn’t take new provocation. There’s a lasting provocation lodged inside of me. A provocation I can only hope to learn to cope with. It will live beside me. I will be bigger than it. Some days, I’ll get to a place where I will feed it too much. It must be fed. If it’s starved it will get loud and angry. It must be fed and acknowledged. It is my constant companion. It is my monster. It is not me.

Thank you to everyone who has helped carry me over the last two months and over the last 30 years.

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Adventure in Seeking the Best

Last year at this time I made a grand proclamation. 2016 was going to be better than the catastrophe that was 2015. Whoops. I still kicked it in the teeth. It tried, but didn’t kill me. It tried, but didn’t break me. Rather than reviewing all of the garbage (deaths, surgery, and so much more), I’m going to try to seek out a few really good things that happened this year. It was more than an election. It was more than a mass of celebrity deaths. 2016 very nearly brought me to my breaking point.

So let’s try to make some sense of a year.

I was given a tribe. I worked and worked. I cried. I laughed. I forgot to eat. I battled my memory, but I found the most amazing people, and they took me in.

I pushed myself. I found new ways to be. I made myself be better. I made myself do better. I had to pull back from other things I care about, but it only made me miss those things too and want to work on them just as hard.

These images were a tiny dream fulfilled.

These two humans did so much more for my heart and my head than people will ever understand, and this image consistently fills me with joy.

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Honestly, these people. Every moment with them. On stage. In rehearsals. Burning fingertips making masks. Celebrating Harry Potter. Meeting late at Henry’s. This year would not have been as livable without each of them.

There was also a great deal of pie.

I was allowed to participate in An Evening With the Authors three times. In turn, I met some truly incredible people.

Did I mention all of the new Harry Potter? Cursed Child. Fantastic Beasts.

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And we got new X-Files. And new Star Wars.good-2016-22

Shakespeare readings continued in full force.

Danny Tamberelli called me “family.”

I scored some amazing best friend time. Some of it was sad. Some of it was painful. Most of it was hilarious. All of it was life-giving.

We got matching tattoos, and I eventually became mine. It was bound to happen.

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Some much needed time with my brother whenever we could get it.good-2016-28

I was loved in ways I’ll never be able to comprehend. Kindness came in so many ways, and I’m forever thankful.good-2016-33I was able to create a space for anything to happen, and I’m in love with it.

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We had so many amazing shows and so many opportunities.

I was able to do my very best to honor one of my reasons to love comedy. I think I did an alright job.

good-2016-3Even though she didn’t win, I was able to proudly and without hesitation vote for a candidate I believed in. I was able to vote for a main party candidate who also happened to be a woman.good-2016-43Gilda Catner and I became the same. It was already underway, but 2016 was the full transition.

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I wrote 115 affirmations, even when it was hard. I created 31 things for 31 straight days. I found or was sent over 100 new payphones. I communicated and received some pretty beautiful responses from two artists that changed my life, Julianne Swartz and Brian Michael Bendis. I met so many new people that I’m so proud to know. I had many successes, small though they were. I had some pretty big failures and defeats, but that’s not what this is about. Thank you to everyone who made 2016 livable. I couldn’t have done it without you.

 

Adventure in Gratitude Day 15

Today is a hard day to be grateful. Today was a hard day. I did something I never once thought I would do.

I walked off my job. No notice. Nothing lined up.

I cried. I called my mom. I cried. I picked up Erica. We got lunch, because she’s kind and patient. We boxed up movies. We sold some of them. I’ll sell more.

I applied for new jobs. I went to the bar to set up for the show. I waited through the delay. I left when someone who (likely, probably, by my way of thinking definitely) tried to drug me a few weeks ago showed up.

So what do I have to be thankful for? New chances. New anything. Open horizons.

Oh. And. The most supportive humans in the world. I didn’t tell a lot of people. The ones I did tell have been nothing, but supportive and kind and helpful and encouraging and proud.

I’m lucky. Life has been so hard lately, but I am so beautifully lucky.

Adventure in Gratitude Day 13

Comedy sisterhood.

My own scene is not riddled with other women. I’m supported. I’m lucky.

But just down the interstate or just over the state line are more women. More allies. More warriors. Fighting for stage time. Not because they’re women. They aren’t just female comics. They’re comics. Funny comics. Smart comics. Comics with more than just some good jokes. Comics with great ideas. With beautiful thoughts.

I’m proud to know them. I’m proud to bring them here when we can. Any chance I get to sit down with any of them is such a life-giving and empowering time.

I’m so thankful for each one of them.

Adventure in Gratitude Day 12

It’s been a hard weekend already. It just has.

But today, I went out into the woods to clear my head. What’s even better, my dear friend came with me. We wander the woods for miles. The sun was shining. The air was cool. The conversation was sincere.

We came back to town and wandered downtown. Showing off my city to my friend.

Some times a clear head does wonders.

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Adventure in Gratitude Day 11

Growth.

A year ago, I was a disaster. I was holding it together when I had to, but I was spiraling. Two years ago, I was so codependent that I could barely stand to be alone. Three years ago, I asked to go to Parkview Behavioral Health.

Today, I have so many ways to manage my thoughts and emotions. So many people to reach out to so that I do not bury my darkness and let it consume me. People look to me for strength, and it doesn’t overwhelm me so much that I can’t breathe. I have healthy friendships with boundaries and respect. I no longer sit quietly by while terrible things happen, because I’m no longer scared to be alive. I’m not. I’m not scared to exist. Things still terrify me. I still find myself sitting in the car waiting to feel strong enough to go into the house. I still cry a lot. I still feel incapacitating loneliness. I’m still scared for my person and what can happen, but being alive does not scare me.

Hope is real. Hope is real. Hope pushes and pulls you out of bed. Hope warms you on the inside when your whole body feels like the dripping walls of a cave.

Love is real. Love is real. Love propels you forward. It pushes out darkness. It creeps into dark corners and shines.

Strength is real. Strength is real. Strength is more than just lifting cars and tossing cabers. Strength is shouting for truth even when your voice shakes. Strength is holding the hand of someone in need even when your own hand shakes in fear. Strength is breathing. Strength is loving. Strength is hoping. Strength is living.

I’m growing.

I’m here.

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Adventure in Gratitude Day 2

I’m as surprised as you are that I’ve made it this far.

Day 2:

Hal and Kerry Johnson are the reason I exist, but they’re also a large part of my continuing existence. When I hurt my shoulder at the airport and had to have surgery, I was still living with them, but I was incapacitated for weeks. When I had my surgery on my ovary the first time they drove down to Huntington to be there the whole day. When I broke my collarbone, they welcomed me back into their home and recliner until I was useful again. When I had surgery on my ovary again, they welcomed me back into their home and recliner until I was useful again. And quite frankly, I think would have let me stay forever if I wanted to. Last night when my car rumbled until it was ready to stall, they traded cars with me so I could still faithfully get to work. When I told them about my assaults they stood in the living room hugging me and crying.

I’ve never felt like a success. I work my ass off to barely scrape by. I will always feel like a burden to those around me, but I’m so incredibly thankful for the unending love and support of my parents.

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Adventure in Getting a New Bellybutton

All of this has happened before, and it will (likely, but hopefully not) happen again.”

I’ve been very out of commission for almost two weeks now. Please, let me explain why, because I think I’m about to have a hard time with my emotions.

In July I went to an urgent care clinic because I was having the strangest pain in my vagina and pelvic area. They suggested an ultrasound, but didn’t have any idea what could be wrong. They also managed to trick me into a pap smear, which terrifies me, because of all that’s happened.

I went about my life. I lived some months just thinking my body was just being a jerk about bowel business. October 19 I called in sick for bowel stuff. My boss is absurdly understanding and a human I’m actually friends with, so I told her everything. I stayed in bed a couple more hours. Before I couldn’t handle the pain anymore.

I waited in the waiting area for a while with my mom. At least an hour. A woman with an actual screw loose in her head fell from her wheelchair, and no one rushed to help her. A man having a stroke sat and waited. It was going to be a long day.

In the emergency room, I was taken seriously. The very first time I went to the hospital in similar condition, I waited and saw no one, until I was handed midol and told to leave. This time they were kind. They believed me. They were concerned. I know my body. I know when it’s rejecting me like it’s middle school all over again.

The ultrasound technician insisted I not get my roommate for the day until after she’d done the highly invasive ultrasound. Here’s the thing about a vaginal ultrasound. It’s terrible. It’s worse if you’re in pain. It’s worse if that pain is what they’re seeking out. Prodding inside you. It’s worse if you’ve been sexually assaulted and don’t want anything shoved up inside you. There’s no amount of kindness and forewarning that makes it easier. It’s worse when they cannot locate the offending ovary. It’s worse when it needs to be done, but it’s taking too long, so you just turn your face away so they can’t see the tears on your face.

When she couldn’t find the ovary, they sent me for a CT scan. The men in that room were also kind. One of them held my hand while tears silently rolled down my face.

When the gynecological surgeon got out of the operating room he came down to explain some things to me. That there was a mass. He couldn’t tell where it was, so we’d have to wait for the CT scan results to see if it was, in fact, in my ovary or if it was in the spaces between my intestines. The ovary was an easier solution. The bowel was going to be a problem.

He came back after the CT results came through, and with plans of a new bellybutton they took me upstairs to the operating room to get the monster out. Until I was unconscious, I was telling the anesthesiologist about Let’s Comedy. He was very politely enthusiastic about the ramblings of a quickly fading woman.

There was another teratoma, which is both a cyst and a tumor. It had caused a torsion of my right ovary, effectively killing it. Both were removed. When it was removed the tumor broke open and spilled some fluid on my skin. I have burns on my skin, that are more painful than “some irritation suggests.”

I was home that night. I was cranky and mean and still owe my parents a lot of apologies for how much I snapped. I spent the next few days in a recliner watching Daredevil season 2 and Luke Cage and Murder, She Wrote.

The next two weeks were spent shoving down my emotions. “Focus on dealing with the pain,” I kept telling myself. “You shouldn’t deal with your emotions and your pain at the same time. You’ll never stop crying.”

I don’t know that I ever wanted to have kids. I don’t know that I ever really could. I’ve always known I’m supposed to be a foster parent. I don’t know for sure yet that my other ovary is functional or fully functional. What I do know is emotions are starting to surface, and every once in a while I cry. There’s a difference between opting out of child bearing and waiting to find out if you’ve lost that capability. Or not knowing for sure ever. Compound that with the lies I’ve been fed most of my life by conservative evangelical leaders and friends that my worth as a woman is met up with my production of humans. (I know this is a lie, reminding me is not a helpful action. That’s something you’re affirming for your own sake. Please, don’t take a beat to affirm that this is a lie). I know my worth as a woman, I know my worth a person is so much more than procreation. It does not make the mental and emotional destruction any easier. It only makes me more aware of the cognitive distortions, which compounds the feelings of being crazy. I have not even begun to deal with this. I’ve slowly breached some conversations with people who have prodded successfully, but ultimately am still delivering information in the form of facts and laughing absurdly at the current feeling of emptiness. I’ll be fine. I will. Right now, I am. In a few days, I’ll probably cry on someone unsuspecting.

In my brokenness, I told several people, I didn’t care what it took. I only wanted to be able to keep my word and perform at the annual Dead Comics Party, a night where wonderful people resurrect wonderful people. I’d been pining for this show for five months. I couldn’t miss it. I sat in my recliner reviewing my bit, but couldn’t do it out loud, because it hurt my stomach. I had shaped a wig before I got sick. All I wanted was to be in Indianapolis on the 25th. I didn’t rehearse my bit aloud until that day. Sitting on my friends’ couch shouting. Standing in my friends’ bathroom shouting. Petting my friends’ dogs shouting. Between each line an enormous gasp of pain. Finally, three minutes and 25 seconds of ignoring my pain and thinking, “I wish I could be doing better.” I walked off proud of myself, but knowing it could have been better, if my body had been better. That to say, I got to spend an evening being one of my heroes, a genius, who coincidentally died of ovarian cancer. Here’s what I could muster.

 

Adventure in Psychological Contagions

Let me preface, and this is important, by saying mental illness is real. It is prevalent. It affects more people in your life than you realize. It’s incredibly real and hard and some days impossible to deal with.

Now, excuse me while I begin to sound like I don’t believe that.

I went to a small private Christian school kindergarten through senior year. Thirteen years in the same rooms with 22 of the same people. I remember the chapel where a very beautiful, very well-accepted, well-liked, popular, and by high school standards successful girl spoke about her struggle and triumph over her eating disorder. She broke out. She did it. I feel the need to placate to you (and myself) about how that’s not something that just goes away forever, but I’ll let it slide. Hooray. She did it.

What so many young women in that school heard was “stop eating. That’s how you make friends in high school. That’s how you look like she does. That’s how you get a boyfriend. That’s how you make a sport team.” Moreover, they also heard “if there’s no tragedy in my life, I’ve made no conversion to Christ.”

The next year there were more eating disorders in our school. Percentage-wise, compared to public schools, I know it had to be a greater number.

After the closing of a musical I remember being in a car and hearing from an older student her story. Her struggle with an eating disorder and her triumph over it. It’s not my story to tell. Her story is not my story to tell. She, too, was popular, pretty, high school successful.

The next year many of the girls in my class, in that car, were affected. It tempted all of us. It crawled into our ears and crept into our brains like the yeerks in Animorphs. It moved through our class like a virus. It became almost trendy. I wasn’t stronger than anyone else. I didn’t resist because I felt so okay with myself. I did not like myself, hell, I was jealous of everyone’s self-control. I envied what would make a great story of triumph soon.

I was selfish and didn’t for a moment consider that my friends were sick.

What I see now in my life is a similar thing. A trendiness to mental illness. I’m all for identifying the things in our lives that break us and shape us. Working on those things. Trying to get healthier. Being open about them. We need to.

It scares me though to watch it slowly come into everyone’s hand like a brand new Lisa Frank folder as they self-diagnose. “I exhibit some of these symptoms and can work harder to prove the other ones. We’ll just say that’s what it is. I will live as this broken person.” While someone in their life struggles and survives and carries on quietly and strongly, someone self-diagnosed has decided to parade around wearing their illness like a new fuzzy sweater from Limited too.

Understand, I know I’m not in therapy anymore, and I should be. Could I afford it, I might be again. I hesitate so often to tell any piece of my story, because I don’t want it to be an inspiration to get sick. I don’t actually want to be an inspiration at all. I tell my story for my own sake. If it helps someone else, huzzah, and I really am so glad. But I speak for me.

As I watch mental illness get more voice, as it should, I’m so excited. It’s important. As I watch mental illness get more voice, I curl up in a ball of fear watching as youth after youth, woman after woman, creates a pain they do not need to carry. It’s not theirs to carry. Mental illness, in all of its forms, is heavy and painful and some time seemingly completely vanished. It tears and it breaks and it shoves and it does not relent. It is mean. It is cold. It is lonely. It is not a prize. It is not a yo-yo or a hacky sack or a tamagotchi. It is a battle.

Something I’ve always struggled with, and I’ve blamed a lot for this, but ultimately it’s my fault, is that if something isn’t14344317_716454937939_8245958060792482384_n wrong something is wrong. And I see it happen around me. There’s nothing glamorous about mental illness. There shouldn’t be anything trendy about it. If you want a trend, buy a Yikes pencil. If you have a mental illness, please, seek the help you need and deserve, not an audience.

(the irony of writing about this in a public forum is not lost on me)