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Sine Metu – Addendum

“I just want to be happy. I can’t think of another phrase capable of causing more misery and permanent unhappiness. With the possible exception of, ‘Honey, I’m in love with your youngest sister.’

Yet at first glance, it seems so guileless. Children just want to be happy. So do puppies. Happy seems like a healthy, normal desire. Like wanting to breathe fresh air or shop only at Whole Foods.

But ‘I just want to be happy’ is a hole cut out of the floor and covered with a rug.”

~ Augusten Burroughs

This is a follow-up to last week’s post about my friend Nicky. In the last few days there have been significant updates. Mental health is nothing, if not consistently weaving in and out of stability.

I posted the above quote for a couple of reasons:

  1. As someone who understands the mental trap doors of depression, Augusten Burroughs (one of my favorite authors) uses his wicked humor like a bucket of water – us sorry souls in the Depression Section need the refresher. Any opportunity to sweep the underbelly of our mental illness with laughter instead of numbing ambivalence is welcome.
  2. The visual of the phrase ‘I just want to be happy’ being a hole cut out of the floor and covered with a rug is exactly the picture I paint within the walls of my own struggles – and one I know Nicky (and everyone with depression) understands.

After his breakdown, Nicky was able to keep his job – albeit with a demoted salary, which should make him somewhat relieved and happy. He lives in a great neighborhood, has wonderful friends and is physically healthy – which again – falls in the lines of the happiness barometer. But happiness is a mistress of personal fulfillment and gratitude. She doesn’t enter inside our mind unless both of those other tanks are full. Depression is the flat tire keeping us from reaching the station. We can see it up the road, but fuck if our mental illness doesn’t take the air out of our plan.

markboy1Here is an old photo of a little boy surrounded in a field of wild flowers. He seems in deep thought while (presumably) inspecting a flower he picked. It’s a beautiful day and we can imagine the warm glow of the afternoon sky comforting the back of his neck and shoulders. We wonder what he’s thinking – where his mind is wandering as he rests in solitude with the sun and the grass. We assume it’s peaceful.

God, what we would give for a world where our outsides reflected the lives we were living on the inside.

The boy in this photo is Nicky. And as anyone with an ugly childhood filled with abuse and neglect will tell you – pictures can be deceiving.

Even now, in his beautiful neighborhood, with his fancy job and lovely friends – so much of him is still that little boy trying to make sense of the pain he’s carried with him for a lifetime.

He asked me this afternoon why he is always fighting. I sent him that photo with the words: “you are always fighting because he never could.”

Last night, Nicky had another breakdown and was treading on thoughts of suicide. This is not his first time struggling to stay above water when all he wanted was to drown.

Thankfully, using the same courage he mustered in facing his fear last week, he did one of the bravest things anyone in such despair will tell you they’ve done: he called a psychologist and asked for help.

I only know this because he reached out to me this morning – and I’m honored to be in his safe haven of people he feels comfortable enough to do so. He knows I’ve been there. And that there’s nothing I can really say to him except the two most powerful words we can say to someone who gets it: me too.

So although working through our FEAR is something we all must do, maybe the struggle is more about letting go of what’s expected of us after we face the FEAR. Nicky was expected to pick up where he left off – his employers not giving him a chance to explore the WHY of it all.

Now, with a doctor on his side, he can finally feel the pressure release from what is expected of him – from his boss, his family and friends – and just BE. Living our OWN life, putting our OWN happiness first? I can’t think of anything braver than that.

BodyImage

Fat. Chance.

Most women at some point in their lives have struggled with their weight. And if you’re over 30 and have and access to social media, magazines, television, movie theaters and/or advertising (plugging anything from sports cars to carrot juice) you’re probably not down with  fat.

It’s an ugly word. It says so much in the space of three letters. If you’ve ever been called the F word, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Lazy, slob, gross, ugly, unfuck-able; these are all judgmental derivatives of the word fat.

Even if we’ve never been considered remotely fat by our friends and family, chances are we’ve obsessed over the numbers on our scale at some point between learning to shave our legs and perfecting liquid eye-liner.

I was a stripper addicted to cocaine for the better part of a decade . THIS PHOTO of me (my own words in bold) was taped to my refrigerator for YEARS.

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I want to wrap my arms around her and do everything I can to make her see what I refused to believe because of my inner-bully telling me I wasn’t enough.

Enough for what? More tips on stage? More validation I was attractive? The beautiful, curvy size-12 woman I am today looks at this photo and wants to simultaneously laugh and cry.

I’m not posting this to brag about being a stripper, or show off the bikini bod I wish I still had (and never appreciated). I’m posting this photo as a reminder for us all – including the media – to help young women see the beauty in their bodies, no matter what size.

Think about it. What chance do young women have if our standards are navigated by the skewed perception that skinny equals enough?

To be fair, I was a chubby high-schooler and my stripper period took place during the waif era.  Still, I can’t help but wonder – what was I thinking (more on this later)?

Thoughts?

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Sine Metu (Without Fear)

FEAR

 

Your fear is 100% dependent on you for its survival.”  ~ Steve Maraboli

If we placed our fears in a petri dish and the universe asked what it needed in order to survive, we all know the short and long of it – it’s us. We’ve seen the Pinterest boards and Facebook quotes. We get it. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, and we must do the things we think we cannot do. If only our understanding of fear somehow brought feeling back to the paralyzed consciousness it creates.

Just because we get why we’re afraid, doesn’t make our feelings less so. A child’s fear of monsters under the bed won’t lose validity when the lights turn on. They’re relieved when discovering the monsters don’t exist, but their fear was always real.

As we get older, the monsters morph into tangible worries like having enough money, making life changing decisions and to top off the insomnia trifecta, being in good mental and physical health.

Although fear is universal, our own struggles narrow the scope and they become much more crystallized within the walls of our story. Each of us has our path, and it’s always walked alone. Our compass is built from life experience, the realization of who we are (which only comes from letting go of who we pretend to be), and the choices we make based on how we handle fear.

Fear is fucked. No one really talks about it, because the more we talk about it, the more it exists. Also, with fear lives vulnerability. It’s a he-said-she-said trap of “I know you are, but what am I”; fear points the finger at vulnerability, while vulnerability blames its very existence on fear. It’s six of one, half-dozen of shit, making us feel weak and alone. So we bury them both, deep inside Continue reading

KikiBlogAneurysm

Shit just got real: my brain aneurysm

It’s been weeks since the docs told me about my little bubble brain. They didn’t use those exact words, but I prefer a sugary colloquialism over the actual medical diagnosis: “Intracranial Aneurysm.”

What started out as a personal quest to get to the bottom of my twelve-day migraine (landing me in the ER twice) ended up being the very beginning of a new adventure: discovering, learning about and living with this ticking time bomb.

brain%20aneurysmTruth? I thought a brain aneurysm was a stroke. But after a crash course with a couple of top-notch neurosurgeons, I now know better. I learned that an aneurysm of the brain is a weakened area of a blood vessel. If it ruptures, this causes bleeding in the brain – which is called hemorrhagic stroke. Roughly fifty percent of people will die immediately, the other half, brain-damaged.

If. Rupture. Stroke. And, scene.

If. Those two letters joined at the hip have been a storm cloud hovering above me since my diagnosis. It’s one of those words that, when on automatic replay is guaranteed to heighten anxiety, perpetuate insomnia and toss you around in a cyclone of worry and fear.

Everybody has their Ifs. If they finished college, saved more money, accepted a job offer, stayed Continue reading

Familiar

LoveLockThere is a special bridge in central Paris, the Pont des Arts. It’s a pedestrian bridge crossing the River Seine, linking the Institut de France and the central square (cour carrée) of the Palais du Louvre.

What makes this bridge so special are the countless padlocks, inscribed with initials and messages of couples in love, attached to its structure.

A clunky, dirty, heavy blanket of undeniable, unbreakable love.

Built in 1804, this nine-arch metallic love shack is a place couples visit from across the globe. After securing their customized lock, they toss its key into the Seine [river] below – a sign that their devotion is eternal, never to be undone.

I’d love to return to Paris one day and walk the Pont des Arts – if only to breathe in the stories. Each piece of metal, many rusted and eroded through time, so singular in their tale, yet Continue reading

Your Crazy is Showing

Narcissist self portraitSo here’s the thing, I’m crazy. Not in a Have the Lambs Stopped Crying, Clarice? crazy. But enough to warrant psychotherapy and be excused from the occasional jury duty order (my bright idea that, no doubt will kick my kharma down the road, I’m sure).

So how crazy is my Crazy?

Being an adult entertainer in my former life twenty years ago, grabbing my ankles on stage was just another day ending in “y.” You’d think unveiling my official medical diagnosis to the World Wide Web would be cake.

You’d think.

Pumping the breaks on conclusions jumping off the screen, I’ll say this: I’m happy to report this post isn’t coming from a locked down facility with padded walls. But the mere fact this scene was a vacation fantasy from my life during some of my worst depression days? There’s the rub.

One of my favorite writing tasks was to sum up my memoir in six words, thanks to friend, Larry Smith and his brilliant Six Word Memoir empire. My post was well received and actually ended up being a feature on his website. Check it:

Ex-stripper turned writer. More exposed now.

So although my comfort in performing in the buff six days a week was in check, I can’t say the same for sharing too many personal details of my mental illness. Let’s just say I have issues (mainly PTSD from childhood and trust issues with men – go figure). I’m sure your working on Continue reading

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A lesson in Weird

Years ago in the mid-nineties when my niece was around seven years old, we passed a book store during one of our special one-on-one days. I loved hanging out with Sydney (still do) – especially since my sister and I couldn’t be more different.

My older sister Laurie is the left brain, practical, problem-solving thinker. Me? I marinate in my right-brain-ness; satiating on the creative, fanatical, finger-painted wonder that is my messy life. You want neat, tidy, brilliant, finance-managing and scary-smart logic? Laurie is your gal (I’m in awe of her brain, actually). I’ll be in the music aisle dancing to Earth Wind and Fire, swinging my unkept auburn locks while my overly-priced-candle burns away – wondering where all my money went.

When it comes to the thinkers and feelers of the world, no one is any better or worse than the other – we’re all just wired differently. It’s actually pretty great, once we get past our “my way or the highway” vibe.

Two polar opposite sisters in a dysfunctional family always makes for some interesting dinner table talks; and proved surprisingly educational when it was just my sister’s daughter and me on this particular day.

“Eeew, she’s so weird.” Sydney was referring to a magazine cover photo of Gwen Stefani in the Continue reading

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Imagine that

The flickering nightlight threaded in the crack of your doorway is a lighthouse. You’re eyes close and you’re there, high above the sea. The howling breath of the night knocks you over, cursing your safety. She whispers in front of a thunderous roar, laughing at you as you clutch to your favorite animal under the blanket. You open your eyes and see more darkness. You cry out for safety, waiting to be rescued.

When you’re a five-year-old, seconds are forever – an eternity when waiting for reality to save us from the boogeymen and monsters underneath our bed.

For some of us, the indelible line between fear in our mind and safety of what’s actually real, bleeds over. It’s a watercolored fingerprint of our suffering from long ago. What once was feared in the darkness on our bedroom floor, now breathes under our skin. No amount of time, booze, blow, sex, cupcakes or insert vice here will erase the reality of our past. It’s fucked. But do we need to be? Like, always and forever, fucked?

A survivor’s acceptance on the road to healing comes at a lofty price. It means rolling up our shame, lacing our truth with personal responsibility, and getting real about how as grown ups, we’re doing everything in our power to avoid getting real.

The most amazing, precious thing about aging in this tortured life of ours is that we have more control than we realize. Who we were as children does not mean that as adults, we’re destined to wear a neon sign flashing “VICTIM!”, “FUCKED!”, or “BROKEN!.”

My truth: I was raped at thirteen. I was a victim. My dad split when I was two, I was abandoned. My step-father was an ass. I was abused. I numbed my shit, I am an addict. I traded my sexy for power, I was a stripper. This is part of who I am – but it’s taken me countless hours and truthful tears to learn – it’s never going to be all that I am.

If you find yourself repeating old patterns, self-sabotaging your happiness, falling back on “it’s because….” – time to remember: we are not the sum-total of our suffering. We are empowered for having survived. Switch the hard wiring in your brain and work on the real you – not the person you turned into – or think you need to be – because of what happened.

“You have to crawl into your wounds to discover where your fears are. Once the bleeding starts, the cleansing can begin.” – Tori Amos

 

*If you or anyone you know needs help regarding sexual abuse, please go to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network).

FaceInMud

You’re not a Pussy

I was seventeen. He was 27. A one-night-stand-turned-partner in bed, turned roommate “boyfriend”. A coke dealer who spoke with his cock and screamed with his fists.

Three years and nine months we lived together. We fucked and fought like animals, but walking hand-in-hand remained elusive.

“I’ll never walk with you because of your skin.”

The attention is better than none at all. With him, I feel alive.

I knew no other way.

It was my first day at the ad agency and the drive to a client meeting was long. My boss behind the wheel was cocky, convinced he was just being funny. Conversations of where’d you grow up? quickly morphed to, so…you boning anyone?

“I’m so glad I’m a good lover.” He boasted while turning into the parking lot.

This is a good job. Don’t say anything. Be flattered he feels comfortable enough with you to go there.

I knew no other way.

We’ve been dating for months. He left his phone unattended during one of our overnight sleep-overs. Temptation sold out to my worst fears realized – I painfully asked the question, taking a peek at his phone. So many sext messages. My stomach flipped and I was sick.

We never did say we were exclusive. Some of his time is better than none. We have such amazing chemistry.

I knew no other way.

There’s a time to shrug your shoulders at the world and give in to the daily shit of life. Someone cutting you off on the freeway? Go ahead, buddy. You’re not worth the stress.

When your self-worth is tested, especially when at a low – this is where you need to remember that YES, you may have known no other way – but that was yesterday. Today, you’re focusing on strength – finding your voice.

What is it that you WANT? If you find yourself in the throes of life not surrounding yourself with people, opportunities and challenges that don’t serve your happiness – ask yourself why.

The cinderblocks of I’m not good enough may fall deep inside your soul – but YOU have the power to stop pouring the cement. Time to stop believing that crumbs are the same as a seat at the table.

There IS another way. You’re NOT a pussy. You’re a fucking LION who’s learning.

Conquer your kingdom (you’re worth it).

“When You Hold Onto Your History, You Do It At The Expense Of Your Destiny.” – BT.D. Jakes

 

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The water was choppy and colder than I was used to, but on this triple-digit day there was no debate.

“It’s too hot”

“Right!?” He was faced-down on his towel, but the beads of sweat on his back agreed.

“I’m going in.”

I stood up, brushed the sand from my palms and pranced my completely naked, out-of-shape ass in front of everyone on the nude beach and walked.

As my body floated with the current, my belly and me had a moment. I laced my fingertips across my navel and exhaled with determination to get back into stripper shape. Fine – as close to stripper shape as a middle-aged broad can get.

“You just have to get all the way in, then it’s awesome!” I was thirteen, bragging about how I had the balls to brave the cold (it only took the afternoon to submerge myself completely).

Once I was swimming, my eyes surveyed the people along the shore. It didn’t matter that my body wasn’t perfect. That a crowd of strangers saw my cellulite and buddha belly in motion. I was comfortable in my skin. I wasn’t happy with my body at the moment – but holy fuck – I was happy.

A swell lifted my body – and the water mirrored my breath – sighing with me in the realization of just how far I’ve come. Continue reading

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When a text becomes a blog

When it comes to texting, concise is always better. But when you’re a writer – well – sometimes editing isn’t our bag.

In texting with a friend whose turning 45 soon, I sensed he wasn’t really present (a good barometer of how tight you are is when you can peg their vibe in a word).

Sure, it’s easy to be off a little when trying to decode those annoying short text replies – and forget about trying to hear inflection. What’s sarcasm to one person, may be totally misinterpreted by the other and the next thing you know, you’re in the midst of a totally unwarranted bitchfest.

With close friends though, it’s easier to read between the texts. The subtext of their replies is rife with emotion – and we either press for answers (“what’s up?” “are you okay?”) or we let it go, giving them space to breathe.

I knew my fellow partner-in-crime was reflecting a bit especially since his birthday is looming. So when he confirmed , “I’m just in my head”, I was in no way gonna pry.

Still, the writer in me wouldn’t dare miss up on an opportunity to share my thoughts.

And just like that. A blog is born.

I realized after reading my marathon text, that I could really say this to every one of my loved ones – including myself.

Wanna read it? I was hoping you would.

“There’s a comfort of knowing we aren’t alone. Even when we wanna be left alone.

People pop up in our lives at what seems to be the worst (or some would argue perfect) timing. We take mental inventory. Ask hard questions we have no desire to know the answers to right now. We wonder if things will ever be different – will we always be fucked up with certain things or people?

Will we ever get a break?

Our own worst saboteur is ourself. We know this. We are frustrated by this and morph our stress into anger and sorrow.

But remember all of it is normal, expected shit when it comes to our mental evolution.

I don’t believe broken hearts are meant to heal completely. We just learn to live with and allow our strength to draw from its survival.

Our stories shape us. And I don’t know about you, but I believe the most amazing, inspiring and lovely people are walking around with their own fucked up stories. Their tattered hearts are the most beautiful because they embody what’s real and raw. They beat with more passion and endurance.

Keep honoring your heart.”

Quite possibly the longest text I’ve ever written.

Happy birthday, friend. You’ll always be so cool.

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St. Elmos Crier

I just finished watching St. Elmo’s Fire. It’s been twenty years since I saw it last and boy, what a difference the decades make.

I always loved this movie because I was attracted to the tightness of the friendships. I also identified to Demi Moore’s character “Jewels”.  Back then, I thought she was the fun one. Tonight, I saw her as much more than the party gal. I saw myself in exactly the same way. It hit me by surprise and delivered much introspection.

All the signs of addiction, depression and mental instability were wrapped up in Moore’s husky voice, fire engine red hair and black lace tights. I loved the Billy Idol mural in her apartment and those hot pink walls were awesome. I started to cry a little during the scene where she locked herself in the apartment and sat on the ground shivering. I’ve totally done that.

It’s amazing how some old movie from your 20’s can make you appreciate how far you’ve come in your 40’s. Some movies just stick.

So tell me, what movie from your childhood (or 20’s) sticks with you?

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Soon

When your lashes unlace to greet the light. Your body uncoils, unwrapping your flesh from her thread-count comfort. You discover reassurance. It’s close to normal, this sacred breadth you’ve reclaimed as your own. You stretch, allowing your lungs to expand and release within the space of familiar. What’s old is slowly new again.

You are singular but not small.

When brushing past a stranger in a crowded room, their fragrance leaves a familiar trace – something happens. You inhale detailed Technicolor memories – setting the dragon free from slaughter. There’s no use in sleighing the visions of who you were with them. You unleash the reality, welcoming their face, their hands on your body, their taste on your tongue. Falling among the trace of tears that struggle to emerge are fragments of your smile.

You are longing, but embrace living.

When driving home isn’t met with worry. Anxiety falls into the lap of acceptance. There is no one on the other side of the door. Your phone is silent. You curl up to the empty space, making peace with alone.

And a song is just a song.

Soon.

Soon you will find the familiar reflection. Your smile, unorchestrated without agenda. Free-falling within the space of your heart, you find yourself. Your laugh laces her fingers with acceptance and time.

When you slip under the covers. Your eyes slowly drift. Your thoughts aren’t far behind. They whisper. Soon. Soon. Soon.

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Forgive WHO?

We’ve all been there. Turned into that person we don’t recognize. Our brains hold our happiness hostage, giving pain where pain doesn’t need to exist. We unknowingly sabotage our hearts because our perception of reality is altered thanks to a heavy dose of What We Wish To Be The Case.

Perception is horrifying when the lens we choose to view from isn’t based in what’s real. The trick is knowing that we are choosing to stay in the clouds.

Red flags are not welcome signs waving from across the field. We aren’t bulls who need to charge at the first sign of danger. Seriously. Danger doesn’t equal excitement. Healthy doesn’t need to be boring (is this just a drug addict thing?).

I can’t speak for any other PTSD-Drug Addict-Sex Abuse Survivor-Ex-Stripper, but for me – the lessons in reality come at a lofty price.

Between planning a huge life-changing move, my story-telling series, and licking wounds from a recent breakup (talk about being in denial), it’s all I can do to keep it together.

So how do we get real with ourselves without beating our hearts up in the process? For starters, we need to forgive. Not the ones who’ve hurt us – but ourselves.

We can point the finger all we want, but let’s face it – at some point, when it comes to living through pain based on patterns we keep repeating – we need to look at our own choices. Once we realize we have more power over our happiness than we realize, the best thing to do is wrap our hearts around our loving souls and forgive us.

There are so many things I’m not proud of about myself. So many actions I’d love to take back. Tomorrow is another day. Another chance to get it right. New beginnings that shed old patterns. How lovely it would be to have a clean slate with the one person who matters the most, who we are always the hardest on – us.

So tell me – What do you forgive yourself for?

 

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Ch ch ch changes

I’m not one for change. I like what I like, and that’s it. Even when I think I’m happy, turns out, I’m just content with the way things are. Content is all well and good, but it doesn’t scratch the itch we all have in terms of personal fulfillment.

Content may be the symphony, but Happy is the dance.

Have you ever said “I’ve always wanted to…” and never found a way to make it happen? What about that thing you’ve been putting off because you just don’t have the time or energy, but it’s still on the front burner of your mental dream list?

When a friend passed unexpectedly last week, I literally felt shock waves throughout his circle of friends and family.

Tragedy has a way of waking us up.

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Markus D Manley

I wasn’t terribly close with Markus, but that’s the thing about him – you didn’t need to be to have his influence wash over you. He was and continues to be a light of unparalleled energy and intent.

From our very first conversation, I felt his vision and passion for the arts. I saw myself in him; the way our eyes lit up when exchanging stories and professional plans. He was a visionary and person of substance.

As so many of us have and still do, I looked up to him as a dude who got his shit done. What he wanted, he sought and conquered. What he envisioned, he created. Check out his Continue reading