The Whole Being Dead Thing

The Whole Being Dead Thing

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Today’s content includes a frank discussion of depression and suicidal ideation. Resources are available.

I’ve carried depression with me my entire life. Sometimes I wave it proudly like a flag – parading it up and down the block for all to see that I’m not ashamed of it. I openly talk about therapy at work and encourage it with my friends. I share the skills I’m learning in therapy with my family. Therapy is effective and everyone should be taught the skills learned through therapy.

Recently however I’ve buried it deep in the heels of my feet – out of frame for the upteenth zoom meeting I’m attending. As if I can compartmentalize it and, like Cinderella’s step sister, cut off my heel so I fit into the shoe.

Intrusive thoughts are not new to me but the frequency and severity of those thoughts has sharply increased over the last few months. I know I will not act on the ideations and at the same time I also hold the thought of them for prolonged periods of time. I have recognized that holding these thoughts, instead of acknowledging them and then letting them go, is a form of self-harm. If anyone talked down to me the way that I talk to me I would knock them out.

Normally I (like many people) take a sadness and I learn and grow from it and it’s valuable, on some level. You emerge stronger. There is at least a trade for the grief. But this year is just a constant parade of horrible shit that didn’t have to happen. This isn’t “sadness was inevitable but it led to growth”, this is “the country I live in is led by venal, incompetent idiots and everything is worse as a result.”

@eachapm’s shit from the internet newsletter 6.24.2020

It’s helpful to have visibility of others who are fighting this same demon. Thanks in part to Emily, I recognized that I have active depression with a side of passive suicidal ideation. I’m not going to act on it today or tomorrow or the next day, but damn if I don’t think at times ‘well, at least I wouldn’t have to deal with *gestures wildly* all of this if I go now. I’m right with G*d.

But I won’t leave quietly. Not when there’s so much work to do. It’s the same criticism that I have for Americans who proclaim they are moving to Canada if DJT is reelected. Nah, bitches. It’s your responsibility to stay and reckon with the consequences of your collective actions. No, you didn’t vote for him but the systems you support enabled him to be successful in the first place. You share that responsibility with those who did vote for him. You can’t just punch out, bitch. Stay and do the work.

So I’m staying. I’m doing the work.

I wrote the first half of this post in June. Here, in August, I have added a psychiatrist to my support network. I started meditating. I started medicating. I’m being kind to myself. I’m winning the battle.

Depression is too big to fight alone. Suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune because at the end of the day, it’s better to be alive. Some days are better than others. The chance, the mere hope, that tomorrow will be better will make the fight worth it.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Rainer Maria Rilke “Go to the Limits of Your Longing”

When the Chips are Down

When the Chips are Down

I have this virtual space to broadcast my hot takes, but I’m not an expert. I don’t want to contribute to the spread of misinformation or the increase of global anxiety. There are lots of places you can go for that, if that’s your aim.

Anyway, I’m sheltering in place here in Chicago. I wrote my legislators yesterday with my hopes and fears regarding our national health care systems. My therapist has virtual sessions now. I’m keeping a gratitude journal.

Here are my top five gratitudes today:

  • My health
  • My home + everyone in it
  • My work + the security it provides
  • My friends + family across the globe
  • My library card

In a tremendous coincidence, all my digital library holds were released to me this week. I’m reading books that have been on my holds for months – I think I added Melinda Gate’s Moment of Lift in early January. Each book is coming to me at an opportune time. I’m particularly enjoying Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing; Resisting the Attention Economy.

Be well, everyone. I love you.

I’d Rather Be Me

I’d Rather Be Me

At both convenient and inconvenient times, I am awestruck at my own story. Most recently I was hit hard while walking back from Forefront’s annual luncheon, which featured a tremendous panel, remarks by IL Governor JB Pritzker, and tribute to one of the giants in Philanthropy, Julia Stasch. As I’m walking back to the office I was overwhelmed with Feelings. I recognize how thankful I am to be in the room for conversations like that, and thankful for the work and the responsibility of having a seat at the table. Like so many of my peers, I question if I even belong there most of the time.

I do. I belong.

I’m still tempted to abandon social media in favor of this blog feed. I doubt sincerely anyone stumbles upon this corner of the sky.

If you’re reading this you are likely:

  1. A prospective or current employer doing due diligence. A terrifying thought, but if they can’t handle me at my carefully manicured thoughts they sure as hell don’t deserve my thoughtfully managed labor.
  2. My dad (Hi, Dad!)
  3. My personal government-assigned agent because I march in the streets (who’s streets? OUR STREETS) carrying all sorts of signage that puts me somewhere on the person of interest spectrum.

So if the feed is just me, alone, screaming into the void without comments, reacts, or retweets – what even is the point?

My content matters [to me, if not anyone else]. And I’m going to keep it off facebook.

Sister Suffragette

Sister Suffragette

This year I’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day… with a brand new Birth Control!

That’s right kids. I’m taking charge of my reproductive health. A woman can make these decisions, you know. It’s a thing now. I was inspired to write about it due to a HuffPo piece this week.  Women have been sharing their stories online about Oral Contraceptives using #MyPillStory, and I wanted to add my voice.

I started taking the pill way before I was sexually active. I struggled with painful cycles in middle school, so my mother (talk about a smart woman) took me to my first visit with an OB/GYN at 12. Before this visit, Mom had always come into the room with me during appointments, but this time she let me go on my own. I was nervous, but Dr. Yen was patient and clear. She was the first doctor who talked to me like an adult who was capable of making my own decisions.

I started taking birth control and felt a change immediately. I had lighter, shorter, and less painful cycles. They were more predictable. I wasn’t concerned with using The Pill for contraceptive reasons, so I wasn’t as important for me to take it at the same hour/minute precisely each day.

I stopped taking it my senior year of highschool (still pre-sexual activity), mainly due to finding that I no longer needed it to help with my cycles. I knew it was an option that worked for me if I ever needed to return to it. When I became sexually active in college, I began taking it again, in addition to using condoms with my partners. I wanted to make damn sure there was no fear about babies or STDs. I’ve gone on and off The Pill without much issues, but I’ve hardly been consistent with taking it at the same time each day. I explored the nuva ring for a time, but I didn’t like it for reasons.

This past year, my husband and I started having sex sans condoms for the first time. To calm my child-free paranoia, I have been more consistent with The Pill. There are still days however when I forget it in the morning rush to get out the door, or weekends when I sleep in and don’t end up taking it until 4 hours after my time. I’m frustrated with the inflexibility of this method. I don’t think anyone wants to be a slave to The Pill. After much deliberation and discussion with my heaven-sent adult OB/GYN Dr. Baer, I will be starting a new method on Mother’s Day. A Etonogestrel contraceptive implant. I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

The Spark of Creation

The Spark of Creation

I’ve been doing some soul searching, folks. A bulk of my time has been devoted to staring into the abyss. Here’s what I have to say: The Abyss is abysmal, and either get busy livin’ or get busy dying.

In my youth (which I still claim) I spent the entirety of my time outside school devoted to performance art. When I wasn’t in class, you could find me in audition or rehearsal. If I wasn’t cast, I would volunteer to be at every rehearsal regardless. That is how I began to stage manage.

I stage managed at least one show a year at Clark, and usually another at Edison  highschool. When I went to college I declared a double major in Technical Theatre and Acting/Directing, and I Stage Managed the first show my freshman year (which was The Screams of Kitty Genovese, an opera based on the true 1964 story of New Yorker Kitty Genovese who was stabbed to death outside her home while 38 neighbors watched from their windows). It was important for me to stage manage The Screams of Kitty Genovese because I wanted to be in the rehearsal room whether or not I was cast (I wasn’t, though I killed my audition and earned some respect as the only freshman to make it through to callbacks for the role of Betty) – and stage managing meant I could observe. I was lucky to be at a university that fostered my interests in both ways – many universities would have directed me one way or another. There are those that argue that SE did me a disservice by allowing me to declare both a tech and performance major. Perhaps it would have been better for me to come against the decision earlier in my career, but I am thankful I got to explore both paths to their fullest extent.

I think I’m a good stage manager. I run a tight room in a nurturing way. I take my job seriously, but with a lighter touch than some Stage Managers. I will admit, that sometimes I need a heavier hand. There’s always room for improvement. But I do my best and I’m proud of the work I do.

I moved to Chicago to perform, but fell back to stage management pretty quickly. And why not? The shows I’ve worked on have been interesting and wonderful experiences. I live my life by the rule “never stop learning” and I have accomplished that in every project I do. Hell, I worked on my first world-premier show (with the playwright in the room) this year. Every experience is a learning experience and I’m thankful to work with talented professionals who keep me learning.

When Katrina: Mother-in-Law of ’em All closes, I will be taking a hiatus from stage management. I’m certain that this decision is right for me, but it’s bittersweet. I’m humbled and grateful for all the blessings in my life. I have the spark of creation and I’m looking forward to fostering it in other avenues.

 

 

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

When I was informed by my staffing agency that my previous project no longer had use for me, I was upset. It was supposed to be a temp-to-perm position that decided they wanted to go another direction – through no fault of my own. The stress ate up my stomach (quite literally – I developed ulcers in the months following and had to take an emergency trip to the hospital) and caused a tremendous amount of grief. I spent time wondering what I had done to get myself in that position, blaming myself and taking quite a blow. Months of therapy later, I was finally able to see that I had no power over the situation. The only power I have is how I choose to react to it.

My staffing agency found me a position here and a position there, but nothing semi-permanent, just a string of day-assignments. I like day-assignments honestly, but my bank account doesn’t. Not knowing where the next assignment would be coming from was stressful too, and my body wasn’t recovered enough to deal with it. So I would go to assignments when they were available, and spend days without assignments filling out job applications and going to therapy.

Over the next few months I would work for this one company in Chicago – and the assignment was pretty sweet if I must admit. It was a Receptionist position – Greeting guests, answering calls, date-stamp the mail, look pretty, all things I was good at. And the people I worked with were wonderful – the office manager especially. We really clicked. Over the two months, I maybe worked there 10 or so times – they kept calling my agency and requesting me.

And then they made me an offer.

I felt like I had won the lottery. After months of worry, finally I had my big break! More responsibilities, a job title, benefits, the whole package – they respected me. And I am so very loyal because of how wonderful this company is to me. This is how you do business, people. Keep your employees happy and they will work hard for you. Today is my first month anniversary of working with these amazing people, and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s to many more!

The Earth and Other Minor Things

So my weeklong experiment turned into a 20 week experiment, but I think my hypothesis has been tested to it’s fullest extent and results were inconclusive. It is important to remember (both in science and in life) that experiments do not fail when your hypothesis turns out to be incorrect. The grand experiment is, well, life. You try this, you try that. Problem is there isn’t really a control group, so it’s hard to say what works and what doesn’t.

To be honest, these twenty weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster. March went out like a lion. April sighed and stepped aside. Along came pretty little May. June busted out all over. And here we are in July – older and wiser than we were yesterday, but still young and naïve. And you know what, it’s okay. What’s the big rush? Why am I hurrying? Who’s timeline am I following here? I want to make the most of the time I am given. I’m intimidated by my own mortality. So it’s hard for me to not worry – I’m full of anxieties and neurosis. And you know what? So is everyone else. Some just handle theirs better than others.

My own anxieties manifested in ways I didn’t expect. Anecdotal proof that mental health is linked to physical health. I enlisted some help to get well. (Thanks, Obama!) I realized that I couldn’t achieve my goals in that state. My current focus is to be kind to myself – stop my own self abuse. It’s going to be a long road to recovery but I have faith in my doctors and finally myself. Mistakes are a wonderful way to learn a lesson. The experiment only fails if you give up.

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Make Me Stronger

Sometimes I start to blog and then ask myself “what do I really have to say?” Narcissism can be the historian’s curse (Gag!) I know that sounds self-inflating, but hear me out: I journal/blog/what-have-you because I’m obsessed about history and my own place in it. I want a legacy. (as if a blog is a legacy, hah!)

I’m not sure if this is healthy or not, but it keeps me motivated and I don’t see any direct harm in it.

However it means I often feel the need to fill silence with my own voice, and it’s a habit I don’t always admire. It’s nervous chatter most time, adding nothing to the conversation or the matter at hand. I want to experiment in allowing silence to be natural.  So this next week I’m going to focus on active listening and observing. I’m curious to see what, if any, changes occur.

I have a theory. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Extraordinary

Interrobang Theatre Project‘s The Pitchfork Disney is a triumph. British playwright Philip Ridley’s “gothic fairy tale” centers around two siblings who after years in hiding meet a sinister couple, Cosmo Disney and Pitchfork Cavalier. Treading a the waters between a dream and a nightmare, Interrobang’s production has earned praise from audiences and critics throughout Chicago – including a Jeff recommendation. To put it plainly, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not seeing this show.

Aislinn Kerchaert and Fred Geyer are flawless as Hayley and Presley. (Photos by Emily Schwartz)

Aislinn Kerchaert and Fred Geyer are flawless as Haley and Presley. (Photo by Emily Schwartz)

It is the highest compliment I can give this production to say that it almost made me sick. Everything is so uniquely unsettling. Haley (Aislinn Kerchaert) and Presley (Fred Geyer) are two halves of a whole – twins playing off each other with kenetic energy that reminded me of Newton’s Cradle with it’s give and take nature.

Technically, the show is perfectly balanced – credit going to director Jeffry Stanton’s extreme eye for detail. Nothing and everything seems out of place in this surreal play. I was particularly impressed with choices of Lighting Designer, Claire Chrzan and Sound Designer, Christopher M. LaPorte – not forgetting Scenic Designer, Stephen Carmody’s playground of texture.

Costume Designer, Noel Huntzinger creates a brilliant look for Hayley and Presley, but really impresses with the chilling costumes for Cosmo Disney and Pitchfork Cavaliere, played by the talented Kevin Webb and Mark Lancaster respectively. Lancaster’s harrowing howl was particularly memorable – and Webb commands the space with a brilliant confidence. It is difficult to pry your eyes off of him at times, but when you do you are thrilled to be met with Geyer’s performance as Presley – who commands his own sort of child-like power in his struggle to regain control of the fever-dream script.

The Pitchfork Disney plays from Feb 6th to March 2nd. Tickets are $10-20 and are available for purchase at http://www.athenaeumtheatre.org/ or by calling the Anhenaeum’s Box Office at 773-935-6875.