At the end of 2017, one of the people I was closest to at the time predicted that 2018 was going to be a year of huge change for me. I was on the brink of starting a new job with fewer hours, much less stress, and a much better salary. The website had been up and running for eight months and was steadily gaining popularity. My romantic relationship was coming up on a two year anniversary, a milestone for me – a relative commitment-phobe with a ‘strong independent female’ complex which runs so deep that I was once seen drunkenly shoving a male neighbor shouting “NO WHITE KNIGHT! NO MAN’S HELP!” as he tried to help me unlock the gate of my apartment complex after one particularly rowdy holiday work party which left the world spinning. Don’t ‘Open Bar’ me if you don’t know me.
Three months in and the Year of Change was in full effect, for better or worse. I was thriving at my new job. I had paid my way out of all my debt. And my relationship had ended via an email I received in my Inbox mere days after my doctor had informed me that they had found “something” and I needed to come in for a “small biopsy procedure.” I’d never known that I have the ability to break out in uncontrollable maniacal laughter and then switch to sobbing with reckless abandon. While sitting at my desk at work. While running on the elliptical at the gym. While sitting in traffic on Lakeshore Drive. While at a nice restaurant with friends or my mother. In the middle of the fucking night at 2AM. I couldn’t turn it off. I felt like I was constantly skidding on black ice; I behind the wheel but had no control as someone else was captaining the S.S. Emotional Disaster.
I’ve said this before but it bears repeating literally every day for the rest of my life: I would not be here without the support system that I have in my life. From my mother to my hetero life partner Corinne to my friends in and out of the music scene, I have somehow surrounded myself with some of the most caring humans this planet has to offer. Although I pride myself on standing on my own two feet, I wrap myself in the support of this group in my moments of need like a fleece blanket in the middle of winter. Of course, with all this bullshittery afoot, they rushed to my aid. “What happened to that No White Knight policy?” I can hear you asking. Well, I can tell you that all that shit goes out the window real fast when you’re discussing diagnoses that have killed your family members. At that moment, I would have taken any knight or queen or pawn or rook I could possibly get. Between the regularly unscheduled visits from my mother, Facebook Messages, texts, and good ol’ fashioned phone calls from friends, my crew was on around the clock watch to ensure I wasn’t wallowing.
I had friends checking on my physical and emotional well-being almost daily for months. It was during one of these elongated yet valued check-ins where Corinne newsflashed me in only a way she has the Best Friend Forever power to do. “I say fuck believing that 2018 is your year of change. 2018 is about you living your life in ways you haven’t been able to over the last two years and like you haven’t ever before.” … because you may not get another chance I heard rise up from a place deep in my head that’s normally reserved for commentary about how I am not lovable because I have cellulite and hangnails. Three minutes later, I had booked a trip to Seattle to go to the record release show of my friends’ sophomore album. Two weeks later, I found myself kissing a relative stranger in the basement of a Mid-Century ranch house somewhere in Wisconsin after a show. According to the calendar, 2018 had started 80-some days ago. But for me, it started in March.
After Seattle came a trip to San Diego and Tijuana; then a very cathartic solo trip back to my old homeland LA to watch my two gorgeous friends get married to each other (table 10 forever!); followed by a road trip to Nashville with Corinne where we watched our queen Kesha in seats so good we could almost touch her feather and sequined boa, visited an Indiana nudist colony, ziplined through an underground cave in Kentucky, and discussed normal best friend shit like how we’re both dom bottoms and not subs.
Of course, real life seeped in between all of my adventurous travel plans. But I made it a point to try and enjoy those more structured hours and days. I helped run my Skeeball League for another amazing skeeson (that’s skeeball for “season”). I watched turtle races at a neighborhood dive bar. I went out drinking and made a fool of myself numerous times and threw my head back and laughed, because why not? What the hell did I have to lose? I took long walks without any music or my phone and really looked at my surroundings. I immersed myself in the lives of my new staff, fifteen very different and beautiful personalities spread between the two buildings that I manage. I see them now as nothing less than extensions of my family. One of these employees also quickly became one of the closest friends I’ve ever had. She can read me better than anyone I have ever met besides my mother. Oh and speaking of Mom, we’ve spent so much time together, going on long walks, talking, fighting, hugging, and loving each other. It’s such a bizarre thing to think that there is only one other person, besides myself, who has been there for my entire life, since the actual moment I was alive.
Of course there were low points. Early on there were those almost predetermined alcohol fueled slip ups that resulted in waking up in my ex’s bed or him in mine and I’d take on the mentality of that cartoon hat wearing dog engulfed in flames reassuring myself that “This is fine.” One of my very best friends also had a tumultuous year and spent time in and out of facilities, contemplating suicide. Then in July, came the suicide of someone else who was once very close to me, someone whose addiction took over his life, wrecked our friendship, his passion for music, and demolished anything else in its path. I still have plans to write something regarding Johnny’s death. But I still haven’t gotten to a point where I can type about it without immense emotional pain. Even writing this now, I’m sitting at my computer crying. For now I will leave you with someone else’s words that do the job I unfortunately cannot yet. “I should’ve called, I could’ve checked, I should’ve tried / To let you know I saw the sadness in your eyes / I’m sorry that you felt so alone, but you were wrong / I was with you. I remember you.”
I had spent a large amount of 2017 and 2018 working on my mental health. With a little help, I have mostly been able to let go of my ever-so-charming “If you’re not with me, then you’re against me” mentality. Today, it falls more along the lines of “If you’re not with me, then could you please step to the side? I’ve got work to do.” But also this year, I found out that I can actually switch off a lot of what Dave Hause refers to as “the bees” rattling around in my head by physically exhausting myself at the gym.
I still cannot believe that so much of my anxiety and deep-seeded stressors can be quelled by something that also helps keep my body in shape and makes me feel better both inside and out. It was like my brain had been working overtime for years, demanding basically all of my focus. And in that, I stopped taking care of my body because I never had the energy. There’s not much time to go for a long walk by the lake or make a homemade meal when you’re so hungover from a night of quieting down the bad that you can now barely stand up. This year, I somehow coerced my brain and body to start working together instead of in opposition. And apparently they’re a great fucking team. With a few hours of exercise a week, my head remains clear, my body has changed into a shape I’m stoked on, and I’m now strong enough now to transport that billion pound AC window unit I own to and from my storage unit all by myself.
But gym workouts and supportive best friends and therapy can only get you so far; some things you have to face on your own. One morning last month, I woke up 2000 miles from home in a bed somewhere off the Oregon Coast. The man that I was laying next to, who I had been developing an ever-escalating relationship with over the last few months, looked me in the eye and said, “I wish I could have met you…” And there it was. Deja motherfucking vu. I had lived through this moment once before, in my last relationship. I was suddenly transported back in time, to a bed back in Chicago, listening to the end of that sentence again. “I wish I could have met you… before all this shit happened that made you this way.” That weight of that comment and the implication that I am now a lesser version of myself because of my experiences has haunted me from the day it was uttered to me through the end of that relationship.
But apparently, I was still grappling with it. Why do we always think that we can close the book and the ghosts of dead relationships’ past aren’t going to float in when we least expect it and haunt the next? I started to panic. This wonderfully caring, witty, adventurous human who I had spent so many days and nights talking to this year was finally onto the fact that my emotional baggage was less carry-on sized and more ‘leaving for a summer long trip overseas’ check-in sized. I’d been waiting for the other shoe to drop and now, he had finally realized that I’m not good enough. That my quirks and obsessions make me not worthy of love or affection. That I am not strong or even tempered or able to take certain things with a grain of salt. I was so deep in my head that I barely heard him finish the sentence. “I wish I could have met you years ago. I’ve been looking for you all my life.” Fifteen minutes later, I was alone in the shower, sobbing out of shock and elation.
How should I end an exceedingly long explorative journey into one of the toughest years of my life to date when the year hasn’t even ended yet? With everything 2018 has thrown at me, something major could happen any minute now (C’mon winning lottery numbers! C’mon!). While this is clearly no “I’d like to thank the Academy” speech, I would be remiss to not thank every person who made this year the strange clusterfuck roller coaster of pure, unbridled emotion that it was and those who were there to help pick me up whenever I fell off the ride. While I will still refuse any white knightery bullshit, I have learned to accept (and that sometimes I actually require) the help of those close to me. Sometimes even the stubborn, pigheaded, overly-independent, little blonde girl with the Type-A personality needs someone to lean on.
So how does 2018 end? Well, there was love and heartache and new relationships and fresh starts and deepening friendships. There were tears and smiles so big they make your face hurt, drunken nights at bars with friends, drunken nights all alone, great embarrassments, and greater victories. But in the end, for all of us, it was just another year. It was just another year, but this one was mine.
Our staff opens up about their struggles with mental health.