Fine

I tried to explain having a mental illness to someone without one the other day, and it was like trying to tell Crayola executives about a color I invented, only in Swedish, while trying to make Jell-O.

Other than haphazard comparisons – “It’s like an allergy attack, only you want to kill yourself instead of sneeze…” “It’s like being on the Gravitron at a carnival while trying to tie your shoes…” “Have you ever been really high but also recovering from food poisoning…” – there really isn’t a way for me to put into words what it’s like. Fighting off an episode is exhausting. There really isn’t much more to say.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 3.41.02 PM

A lot has been written about depression and anxiety over the past few decades. The advent of pop psychology, and self-help books that became all the rage in the 1980s and ‘90s, allowed for many of us to grow up on Dr. Phil, or perusing the pages of books left on our mothers’ nightstands:

Women Who Love Too Much
Women Who Run With The Wolves
Feel The Fear Within
Awaken the Woman Within
The Anxiety Cure All
Depression Kills, Hope Cures
I Love You, Please Leave
25 Shades of Taupe

I hid in my closet, thumbing through these tomes, as my parents shouted insults at one another in the kitchen. I came away from those chapters with the knowledge that a) my parents were inevitably heading towards divorce and b) I had some seriously serious psychological problems. I thought that making someone well-adjusted was something that chiropractors did. I cried at Garfield cartoons and remained stone faced at family funerals. My favorite childhood fantasy was that Cher was actually my birth mother, and she would be coming back for me, sequined unitard and all.

As a creative kid growing up in a broken home in the suburbs, I was typical. I made the same shitty decisions as almost every teenager of my generation born into the same circumstances did. Because my behavior and moods were largely unmanageable for my mother, who also grappled with similar afflictions, I was sent to a therapist at a young age. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, a mild dissociative disorder and NSSI (non-suicidal self-injury) and it was recommended that I get on pills. My father refused to pay for the Prozac/Wellbutrin/Xanax cocktail, which, looking back on, I commend him for. My therapist, unable to write a prescription, meekly suggested I started journaling about my feelings. Those journals turned into poems, those poems multiplied, became stories, became scripts, became narrative. Writing kept me almost close enough to stable, and I survived my parents divorce and high-school without too many vicious scrape-ups.

monsters

In high-school, my poetry got me into college. After graduation, my college degree got me my first job in Los Angeles, at the story department at a major movie studio. I was able to toil away in a field of flawed artists filled with the same Pandora’s box I’d been accustomed to: addiction, anorexia, depression, anxiety. The link between the intellectualism, creativity, and mental illness is fairly well-known, scientists have even isolated a single gene, DARPP-32, as being the likely culprit. But, previous history, studies, and even a community of similarly plagued degenerates hasn’t kept me from my own personal MMA battle with my brain chemistry. Just because I’m suffering from the flu like 200,000 other people doesn’t make it any more bearable for my body. Mental illness is a personal albatross, no matter how many flashlight beams of science, fact! are shone on its dark crevices. Those dark crevices are my pied-a-terre, along with countless others. It’s our hostile hostel; we live there sometimes, and it sucks.

The problem with being a semi-aware, introspective adult is that I know when my neurochemistry starts backfiring…yet there’s nothing I can do about it. One day I’m fine, reacting admirably to life on life’s terms and interacting with the world in a nuanced, logically guided manner…the next day I think that my closest friends actually loathe me and I’m the most repugnant oozing pustule it’s no wonder I’m single, I should slice myself to ribbons with the nearest sharp object.

“Why don’t you call me when you feel like that?”

“You know you can always talk to me.”

“You know I’m here for you, right?”

After I emerge from the netherworld of sleeping too much, crying until my eyes feel like they’re wearing tiny cilices, and listening to the entire catalog of Joy Division on repeat, my friends, who didn’t actually hate me and aren’t intentionally neglecting me when they’re at work or dealing with chores, seem stunned. They chime in with well-meaning advice and verbal insistence that, no, really, they’re there for me, all I need to do is reach out.

But that’s the very nature of the problem with crossover diagnoses and being self-reliant: those suffering are often too neurotic to feel comfortable asking for help until they’re too depressed to ask for help because, welp, they’re hoping to be dead by morning.

It’s not that I don’t want help, it’s just that I don’t want to bother you with the fact that I want help.

sad clown
If there was a way for me to ring a silent bell that was only a pitch that my closest friends and family could hear, I would.

“Does anything help?” that friend asked.

That’s tricky. As an adult, I opted to try a low-dose SSRI so that I wouldn’t kill myself. Lexapro gave a valiant effort, but came with curious and annoying side-effects, like cold symptoms and tasting fried chicken the entire time I was on it. Sure, I wasn’t depressed, mainly because I felt too sick to be sad. I didn’t like having to call upon a pharmacological solution when, underneath it all, I felt smart enough, strong enough, human enough to help myself.

Other than drugs, it’s a crapshoot. Televised hockey, walks outdoors, writing, working a recovery program, any sort of mindless game, cleaning, brain-numbing sex…these things keep some of the wolves at bay. It’s hard to be planning on offing yourself during playoff season. But, really, by the time the synapses start misfiring and the weird haze starts clouding my thoughts, it’s a little too late for mental Band-Aids and troubleshooting.

I’ve noticed certain things over the years that act as a wind-shifting alert that shit’s about to go sideways. I’ll suffer from a particular sort of fever dreams, I’ll stop responding to texts, I’ll cancel plans I had previously been looking forward to, or I’ll forgo scheduling them completely. Of course, it’s during those times that I hope the people I’m closest to notice and reach out, but I’m simultaneously mortified and afraid of having to respond to their inquiries to begin with. “I’m fine,” I always answer. I’ve learned to remember critical life details that can be handily tossed out in question form to change the subject back to them. Depression and anxiety are opposite sides of the same magnet. All of your needs and desires are at war with one another, lined up like the players on a foosball table, skewing in directions where they’ll match, but never touch.

hand

And maybe that’s the silver lining to being an adult who suffers from embarrassing emotional disturbances better associated with teen dramas and Tumblr blogs: I’m finally old enough to know that these episodes will pass, even as I’m affected by them. That doesn’t make it easier, but allows for me to babysit myself as best as I can. For anybody else who is beset by this, I salute you. For the family and friends of the sufferers, I send you my sympathies, and deepest respect. May we all go through tomorrow’s neurotransmitter roulette spin without our number coming up.

[If you, or someone you know, feels at the brink of danger, call 1 (800) 273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7, and will connect you with a trained counselor who can help. Hang in there. You’re not alone.]

Dearth Nadir

I (re)joined OkCupid in the hopes of meeting new people.

If this is my selection, perhaps I’d better start hoarding cats or drinking bleach.

Please note, I have never interacted with this person, I simply right-swiped over his photo, because he seemed physically appealing. As with most cases of window-shopping, the product did not deliver as promised.

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Get the Picture

A friend of mine once showed me a photograph of a girl, somewhere between the ages of 20 and 25, standing in a bathroom, photograph taken of the reflection in the mirror. She was perched on the balls of her feet, glancing over her shoulder, wearing nothing but knee-high socks and the rubber band that held her blue hair up in a top-knot. No makeup. Duck face. Not my type. He and I were at a bar, watching the game.

She had very nice breasts, that stranger, and she had a tattoo of a bird over her hip. There was a grey towel in the background. I still remember this. It was about three years ago.

My friend, whose roguish smile as he showed me the image on his phone was likely the same roguish smile that enticed that sylph into sending such a photograph, was unfazed.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“Some girl,” he replied.

“Does she know you’re showing that to randos?”

“Hitting send means show your friends,” he laughed.

“Um, I’m not sure she’s aware of that…and that doesn’t really rhyme.”

but first let me take a selfie

I never learned that girl’s name, and my friend has since gotten married to someone I have not seen in knee socks, but I have seen a former sexual partner of someone naked, and I don’t know who she is.

The truth is, I’ve always subscribed to the notion of keeping the truly sacred things private, while being willing to have the rest of my life basically torn apart by the rabid bored hyenas of the general public under the age of 40.

There are nude photos of me on various outlets of the internet, and I would say that the majority of my Contacts list has seen R-Rated (or worse) selfies from time to time. There are clips on many phones of me doing things that would cause nuns to have heart attacks and Republicans to pass indecency laws. I’m not proud. I figure that one day I’ll have cellulite, (more) wrinkles, and joints too arthritic to kneel. While I’ve got it, I flaunt it, and I assume that what I flaunt, shoot, or send gets shared.

And, really, if I’m recording it on your phone or sending it to you, I probably don’t actually care. Because real intimacy, in my experience, is the type of thing that doesn’t need to be captured on a pixelated display for future viewing. So if you have me, naked, somewhere in your digital memory, I assume you’ve showed it to others, and it’s just as much an illustration of your despicableness and lack of tact as my own.

Other than revenge porn, the way I see it, both smutty parties are to blame.

but first lemme take a selfie

That said, I think there is a sort of show-your-work thought process that ought to be employed if you’re so much as musing about sending your tits, ass, or other bits to a friend, lover, or stranger.

SET A PASSCODE.

I repeat, set a passcode. Either change the settings so that your messages don’t blow up your lock screen or enable a means of shutting down access to your phone. Right now. Do this. I’ll wait.

Ok. You do this for a multitude of reasons, one of which is that, if your phone is face up in a place like a meeting, a family dinner at Applebees, or while you are on a date with another potential body to send you a naked selfie, the other parties involved aren’t privy to the goods. Not because that would be an accidental violation of the sender’s intimately shared privacy, and potentially embarrassing to you, but also because those other people might not be into knee socks. Or schoolgirl uniforms. Or half of a mascot suit, whatever.

(For the record, I neither have set a passcode nor have changed the settings to not allow tiny thumbnails of picture messages to magically appear when sent, but I’m essentially a hermit orphan who never leaves the house, unless it’s to get naked with another person.)

“Hi, Mom!”

Although I have been in relationships where there was basically an ankle tracking device affixed to me, marking my every move, most healthy sex partners don’t necessarily know where their lover is at any given moment. They could be with their family, and unless they are freaky hippie types or blind, that would just make sharing the Bloomin’ Onion kind of awkward. You run less of a risk of having to meet their boss than having to meet their younger brother, the later of which will undoubtedly be an experience for everyone. Merry Christmas?

Forever: it’s a long time.

Chances are, you will be an ex one day. It may not end amicably. Think of the last person you had a nasty falling out with, perhaps you walked in on them cheating with a girl obsessed with ‘kawaii’ culture meowing repeatedly into the pillow, or they forgot  your birthday. Whatever. Whoever you were last really and truly angry at, do you want them to see you masturbating while eating a cupcake until the end of time or their phone is stolen and iCloud account magically deleted? No? Just keep that in mind. The Internet is forever. True love is not.

Tom

Bigger than bigger.  Maybe?

BEEN THERE, DONE THIS. Hot presumably lesbian Apple employee asks, “Could I see your phone for a minute?” after I was having issues with getting error messages when sending texts.

Boom. Dick pic.

Well, there goes her thinking I’m bisexual.

The rest of our Troubleshooting consult I don’t remember. I think she fixed the problem, and I almost walked face-first into the glass door on my way out. To my credit, it was a lovely specimen of male genitalia. Good lighting. A+.

Find My Moan

The only thing worse than seeming to have the incorrect gender preference for a potential Apple employee discount is not knowing who is seeing you naked. At least with friends and family, there’s that Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Naked thing. When you lose your phone…

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Tit for tats or tits for tits? Not so much.

I can only speak for yours truly, but if I’m posing, I probably want something in return. More often than not, I’ve sent something and gotten bupkis. Often there’s just poorly spelled words mid-masturbation after it’s either saved or delivered. Unfair. Remember playground rules: I show you mine, you show me yours?

Hilarious that, as I type this, I realize that not once did a dick pic entice me to send any image of myself in return. Other than maybe a chastising furrowed brow selfie. If I wanted to send a photo, I would have done it already, dude.

And a footnote to all of this? If there’s something sexy being recorded, chances are I wanted the footage for my own amusement and bragging rights and am now too shy to tell you. See what clothes do?

Bottoms up

Ask yourself, “Have I been drinking or doing something else that can impair my judgment, ability to operate heavy machinery, or drive a car?” Did you have trouble taking off the clothes you were wearing due to issues with gravity and balance? If other substances are involved, don’t send the image. What’s worse than drunk dialing? Drunk texting, because it can be screen-capped. What’s worse that drunk texting? Drunk picture messaging. Or video messaging. Or audio messaging, slurred, which is basically the same thing as drunk dialing. There should be a, “Give me your keys, give me your phone” friend policy for wild nights out. Designated driver, designated texter, that sort of thing.

In the immortal words of The Who, “Who are you?”

If you’re making moving images, think about the motivation for him (or her) to record it. If you don’t know the person well enough to answer that, I’m not going to ask you why you’re sleeping with them, but I will ask why are you sleeping with them, on their phone, forever?

Absolutely, there’s a complementary aspect to, “Hand me my phone, I wanna take a picture/record this” as you’re doing whatever, but if it were so easy to be a porn star wouldn’t everybody with a tribal band tattoo and a tube of self-tanner be doing it? Make-up, production assistants, lights, legal, green screens, STD tests…actual porn takes work, and money, and porn stars. You wanna know why? Real sex isn’t always sexy. It’s often weird looking.  And awkward.

Lastly, fair warning, do not sponsor a “Beaver Hunt.” Arm yourself and be forewarned. Revenge porn is a very real thing, and it doesn’t have to be you in a Sasha Grey-like scenario. Selfies? Yep. They count. And you don’t want to become just another unsuspecting statistic, may you be the recipient or the sender.

Now if you’re still going to cross the rubicon of Send, at least message me a copy first.

[Note: If you have been a victim of revenge porn, or know someone who has, End Revenge Porn has all the information you need to fight back or help out.]