NashTucky: Where Tires Go To Die

Let me preface this post with something I’d meant to say all along:

Divorce, nervous breakdowns, and losing best friends, those are all things that happen to (some of) us. Some of us cope publicly, some privately, each singular situation a personal nightmare for all parties involved. I’ve shared my sides of the stories, but, as any of us knows, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Because this is my personal blog, and not a group blog like Band Back Together, you’re hearing my side of the story. I’ve done my best to explain the situation without pointing fingers, tainting reputations, while still telling you the stories as I’ve experienced them. I don’t write them to hurt the people involved, and I’ve done my level best to explain the series of events as I perceived them.

Have I always succeeded? No. Will I always succeed? No. I’m not perfect and I’m no victim. Nor is Dave.

In the end, we’re both simply two people, trying to find our way in the world.

Which, when you think on it, is what we’re ALL are trying to do.

——————

July 13, 2012

We were on our way to NashVegas, tunes jamming, as I noticed the sheer amount of blown-out tires peppering the Indiana freeway. She was attempting to have a little fun and I was simply pretending that my life was in proper working order again – just for a few days.

“Dude,” I said to Dawn. “What the shit is up with the tires? Are there those spiky roadblocks or zombies or something?”

“I haven’t seen a SINGLE dead animal carcass,” she replied. “WHERE THE SHIT IS THE ROADKILL?”

“I saw a dead something a couple of miles back,” I gestured with my hand. “It was probably a hairy tire.”

“That’d be a GREAT band name,” Dawn gushed. “We should start a band.”

“I’ll totally play a kick-ass kazoo – unless we need a cellist,” I suggested.

“I think a kazoo is more your speed,” Dawn replied, truthfully, drawing the “think” out to be approximately 10 syllables long. Fucking Southerners – they always sound like they’re speaking through a mouth of delicious candy, and I swear that if one of them tried to insult me, I’d probably hug them for being as cute as a tick in a rug (unless it was a knife fight – we ALL know that one should always bring a tampon to a knife fight – it distracts your opponent ESPECIALLY if he is, well, in possession of a dingus).

I nodded – she was right. I can’t really see myself as a “rock cellist.” Disco cellist, perhaps, but alas, I digress.

Before we hit NashTucky proper, Dawn got a gleam in her eye, and not the “I got to pee on you,” kind of gleam. More of a “I’m about to fuck with you,” look. And fuck with me, she did. I’d expect nothing less.

“So,” she announced smugly, clearly proud of herself. “I got you a birthday present. Rachel helped me.”

“Dude,” I responded. “You SO didn’t have to do this – I’m all but pretending the day of my birth is sometime in November. Or October. I always did love October.”

“Oh,” she replied. “Yes. Yes, we did.”

Involuntarily, I shuddered.

She reached into the backseat, which she’d thoughtfully filled with things that ended in “andy, “ookies,” “hips,” even though I’d warned her that I’d been unable to keep food down for weeks. She’s thoughtful like that. I don’t always eat, but when I do? Diabeetus.

From the backseat, she grabbed a small nondescript brown cloth bag and handed it to me. “Happy Birthday,” she announced. “It’s from me and Rachel.” I groaned. I work with them on Band Back Together, creating the zillions of resource pages we have, knowing both of them are fairly nefarious and tricky.

I unzipped it as Dawn cackled. First thing I saw? A double box of Lil Debbie Nutty bars, minus one pack. Because we all know that Nutty Bars taste FAR better than skinny feels. I gave Dawn a quizzical look and she shrugged, “I got hungry.”

I nodded – that made sense.

Then, I pulled THIS out:

giant highlighter

Because a highlighter that doubles as a sex toy? FULL of the win.

At the very bottom of the bag was a CD. A CD marked, “Becky’s birthday JAMS, beyoch.” I was immediately drenched in an uncomfortably cold sweat, despite the summer crotch I had going on from sitting in the sun for six hours.

“Oh NO,” I moaned.

“Pop that motherfucker in,” Dawn demanded. “Rachel has been waiting all morning to hear what you think.”

I hung my head, terrified by what my two best friends had come up with as appropriate “birthday jams,” for someone who was still recovering from a nervous breakdown and reeling from my upcoming divorce.

She popped it into the car’s CD player with the preface that, “this song came from the ‘Kids’ section of iTunes.”

It was some version of the Beatles “Birthday,” which did not include, as I’d feared, dogs singing, but did have children singing it. I nearly vomited.

After what seemed like an eternity, the next song queued up. The opening strains familiar, I craned my neck so as to better (somehow) figure out what it was. Dawn was alternating between staring at the road and staring at me, waiting for the chords to trickle into the dark, unused recesses of my brain until the lightbulb went on over my head.

He began to sing. Something about the world changing. And I knew exactly who I was listening to, ice water coursing through my veins.

John C. Fucking Mayer.

The next song.

John C. Fucking Mayer.

The next song.

John C. Fucking Mayer.

I sat grimly through the songs, teeth gritted.

“You can change it,” Dawn said, an offer that sounded a lot more like a plea.

I stared at her, a wicked smile drawing out over my face. “Oh HELL no. We’re going to listen to this. Over. And. Over. And Over.”

She gaped at me.

“And,” I said smugly over the irritating strains of John C. Mayer’s voice, coupled with his amazaballs guitar riffs, “Now you own John C. Mayer’s music. You can finally profess your love for him to the whole world.”

She continued with her best trout impression until a wicked smile began to play at the corners of her lips. She began to flip through the CD, pausing briefly on a Rick Astley song (if you haven’t read this, you should – I promise it’s not a video and it WILL make you laugh), just so I could experience the wonder that is Mr. Astley and finally landed at the end of the CD. She turned smugly to me and said, “Eat it, bitch.”

The chords began and immediately I began to tear up. Because OMFG those sad puppies! Those sad kitties! THOSE ANIMALS NEED MY LOVE.

Luckily, I was able to get to the CD in time and turn it off before I began wailing.

Dawn, as per usual, continued cracking up until tears of laughter coursed down her cheeks.

“Imma get the two of you back for this,” I said grimly.

“Just you wait.”

The Nervous Breakdown Chronicles: Sometimes, I Wonder What It’s Gonna Take

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

I’d known that we had problems well before The Guy (formerly) On My Couch moved in – problems created by the both of us – and once he moved out, Dave had transformed into a caring and sweet person; the one I’d fallen in love with so many years ago. While I didn’t exactly hope that we’d be dancing through fields of sunflowers or poppies to the tune of “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” I’d hoped we could reconcile our differences and come back to the table once I’d finished figuring myself out and becoming well again.

I wasn’t necessarily certain what that would look like, only that perhaps, I’d be able to call him my friend, co-parent our children, and work out a solution that would make us both happier. I had no illusions that our life would somehow magically be perfect again, only that I’d be happy to reevaluate where we both stood.

I said yesterday – and meant it – that no one plans to get divorced. I certainly never expected that I would be sitting here, wondering how I’d manage to afford living alone, whether or not I could truly make enough money blogging to support myself (so that I can get out of an environment that has proven to be toxic to me), wondering how just how badly all of this will fuck up my poor, sweet, innocent babies. Any one of those conundrums are not particularly easy to solve, and having them suddenly thrust into the limelight while I was at my absolute worst was not, perhaps, the most ideal of situations.

Having a nervous breakdown, I’d been informed, was a time in which I had to focus upon me – and me alone – and work toward recovery. That, being something I’d not done before in conceivable history, and something I was attempting to try and understand.

This whole divorce-thing threw a wrench into the whole damn thing. I couldn’t be getting better if I was attempting to secure my financial stability, my well-being, and focus on recovery and getting healthy.

I honestly don’t where this will take me.

I hope to get back to writing and working on my blog, feeling that the curtain of secrecy is now lifted helps a lot – it’s impossible for me to feel like I have this space – my space – and be unable to truly share what’s going on in my life. I hope that I’ll have some time to really work on my book. I’m hoping to focus on the things I can do rather than all the intangibles I cannot. Knowing that two of the biggest pillars of support in my life have – in one short week – have chosen not to stand by me, well, that’s not exactly the way I’d expected to spend my recovery and my birthday.

I will take each day as it comes – each second, if I have to – and I will work toward rebuilding.

Because I must, once again, rebuild.

I’m just so weary; so, very weary.

And I wonder what it’s gonna take.

The Nervous Breakdown Chronicles: The “D” Word

Part I

Part II

Part III

My heart’s like an open book,
For the whole world to read.
Sometimes, nothing keeps me together
At the seams.

-Motley Crue

I’d been sitting there, on the edge on my couch, staring out into the cold, January night, where daylight appears to last ten minutes, the icicles shimmering happily in the streetlights, occasionally flipping through a trashy magazine, wondering when bone-skinny got to be the new black.

I finally stopping flipping through the pages and began to read when I got to the article wherein Giuliana Rancic was discussing her breast cancer (NOW you know how long ago this was), because, well, we Chicago girls stick together (Norrrtth SIIIIIIIIIIIIDE!). In the article, she discussed the treatment of her cancer, and how she’d been vacillating between one option and another.

The way she told the story, her husband, Bill, (North SIIIIIIDDDDDEEEE!) sat down and held her as he told her that she had to do what offered her the best chances at recovery and that he would be by her side, every step of the way; that he loved her and would love her no matter what.

That normally sweet sentiment would generally have one of two effects upon me:

  1. Gag
  2. *barfs*

Instead, I found myself weeping, alone, on a cold January night.

I wept, not for Giuliana Rancic, or her sweet husband, Bill, but for what might have been. I’d known for some time that Dave no longer loved me – it’s not the sort of sentiment like, “Hey honey, can you pick up some honey for my tea on your way home from work?” that you can forget. Those are words that cannot be unsaid and unheard, no matter how you try. And I did try, believe me, I did.

I remember my marriage counseling class, given by the church we were to be married in. The couples, we all sat around a long chipped table, covered in that hideous brown fake wood veneer, and I tried my hardest not to scribble out a “Becky Rules!” on an area in front of me that someone before me had peeled away the plastic covering, leaving an open white space that the former bad-ass I’d once been longed to fill.

I smiled about the serendipity of it all – I’d spent many years in that room as a child, practicing for this youth orchestra or that, and now, it felt I’d come full-circle, sitting there with my husband-to-be, listening to a dour old lady talk to us about conflict resolution, communication techniques, as well as filling out a personality inventory (which, for the record, gave me absolutely no insights into myself or Daver, it simply told me what I’d already known). I walked out of there, hand-in-hand with my fiance, our foot-falls echoing the hallways of the church, practically bouncing with smug superiority: I’d beaten the odds, gone from a single mother eking her way through nursing school, to having graduated with some variation of cum laude and now I was going to be a married lady. It wasn’t my life as I’d expected it, but here I was, and I was happy.

“Pshaw,” I remarked to Dave at one point, my superiority flag flying high. “WE won’t get divorced.” Like anyone steps up to the alter with the intention of later stepping up to a judge, saying, “Irreconcilable differences, Your Honor.”

But no. I was so fucking smug about it – I’d finally found the right man, a great father for my son, what could go wrong? He’d seen me at my worst – and I his, what more was there? Divorce happens to *waves hand* OTHER PEOPLE. Not to people like us.

Except here I was, sobbing stupidly into my People magazine, light years from where that smug 2o-something once stood, realizing that, not only does divorce happen to people like me, it has happened to us. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but I knew it was coming. Too many words unsaid or unheard, a chasm as wide as Soldier Field now separating us, there was nothing left to be done.

We’d spent some time in couple’s counseling (which came about after this), in which I learned that Dave had been carrying a backpack full of resentments toward me regarding things that had happened so many years before – those resentments led him to lash out at me, emotionally withdraw, clearly unsure of what to do with me. At one point he told me, “I can’t deal with your problems.” Whenever I’d bring up things like, “my PTSD acting up,” he’d sigh a semi-disgusted sigh; the sort that said (without words), “Another problem? Jesus fuck, woman.”

I eventually stopped telling him.

I felt weak. I felt like having “problems” meant that I was a miserable excuse for a human being – my problems clearly the sign of a shitty character. Who could love someone like that? Someone like me?

And, he’d asked me, once we were separated, yet living under the same roof, after I’d written this, to not speak of our separation, so that we could go it alone. I respected it. Protecting him and trying to pretend that my life hadn’t been drastically altered, however, came with some unexpected side effects: I lost my voice. No longer could I pour whatever was into my heart onto a keyboard. No longer could I tell the world how I’d ached and cried or laughed and smiled. It all had to be said through a fake filter – written several steps removed from my actual life.

Losing my words took a toll far greater than I’d expected. I felt I was living a double life: the one I presented to the world, and my real life; the space in which things, well, they weren’t so funny.

It finally came to a boiling point last night.

The night before, I’d shared my goals for recovery, my plans for the future, my hopes and ambitions, as I sobbed into my blankie. He informed me of the things he needed, and mentioned that nowhere in my soliloquy had I mentioned “staying at home with the kids” or “keeping a clean house,” which prompted the suggestion that “perhaps it would be better for my recovery for me to move out.”

(blink, blink, blink)

Not being particularly rash, or prone to throwing things around the room, I instead thought about that offer.

I mulled it over all night and the following day (yesterday): Could I afford moving out? Could I (with my migraines) manage to go back to work? Would I go on public aid? Would I have insurance? Where could I live? What would I do? Why would now be the time to think about these things if I was (per the both of us) supposed to be focusing on my recovery?

I sat down last night and told Dave that after thinking it all through, I was planning to move out. I wasn’t sure where, I wasn’t sure if I could afford it, but I’d be moving out, getting my head straight, and returning to be with my children. He offered to sign all the divorce papers so that I’d get some alimony.

As for me? I just wanted – and still want – to get better. To feel safe, loved, respected. To work on myself and begin the road to recovery. I wanted the time to heal and grow and make the right choices for myself. To not see my failures played out upon the features of Dave’s face every time I turned around.

Where that will take me? I don’t know.

Nervous Breakdown: 4

Aunt Becky: 0

And that, my dear friends is the way my marriage has ended – not with a bang, but a whimper.

The Nervous Breakdown Chronicles: Moving On

Part I

Part II

The seconds ticked by, each yawning into the next as though time had truly decided that now it was appropriate to take a break and stand-still. I sat shaking like a Chihuahua at my computer, hoping I’d be able to find that I had some miracle answer; some cure, something to stave off the emptiness gnawing through my gut.

I’d considered the ER, but The Guy (now formerly) On My Couch had my car and I’d asked him to take me, in the vain hopes that the ER staff could change my anti-depressant (not so I could get locked in a padded room – I had no “plans” for a suicide*) or offer me something – anything – to help out, considering my doctor’s office had turned into something out of Oregon Trail – no running water, phone lines, or electricity.

He told me that he could not, in fact, take me to the ER, but that he could drop me off, if I so chose. If there’s anything worse than the thought of sobbing alone in an ER room (perhaps sobbing in the middle of a busy restaurant?), I’m not sure what it is. I said a quick, “thanks but no thanks,” and continued my weeping. I figured the black eyes this would cause would be a pretty awesome fashion statement.

When none appeared, I decided that some trashy television might be the answer. I grabbed my comfort object, my blankie, and my pillows and curled myself up into my wee nest on the couch. From the “Shows You Might (Not) Like” on the Netflix queue, I selected the one show I’d always been curious about – Intervention – and began to watch it.

Pro-Tip: while feeling semi-suicidal and bone-crushingly depressed, do NOT watch Intervention. While it may feel good to say, “wow, I’m glad I’m not THAT person,” when the Intervention fails and the person falls back into their old ways, you’re not left with a particularly positive outlook.

I ended the second episode even more depressed than when I’d begun. My mother had taken the kids for a bit that afternoon, after I called hysterically, begging her to help me.

So by the time I turned off the episode of Intervention, The Guy on my Couch, and my very best friend on the planet had come home from work.

“Hi,” he called to the eerily quiet house.

“I’m out here,” I called back.

He came into the room and sat next to my feet at the edge of the couch, where he’d sat so many nights, watching TV with me. He gave me a hug and I cried a little onto his clean work shirt, which smelled strongly of the outside.

“Sorry I just boogered on you,” I said, a little sheepishly. Having him there made things a little better for me – I was no longer alone.

“S’okay,” he said, “How’s it going?”

(cue weeping because Lord knows, the moment someone inquires after my well-being, my response is to cry like an asshole)

“N-n-n-not so good,” I said. “But I’m going to my doctor tomorrow and the therapist on Thursday. I’m working on getting better – making the right steps.”

“Good,” he replied, a little uncomfortably. “So, I’m going to need to talk to you or Dave about the logistics of moving out.”

“Talk to Dave,” I replied, the tears streaming down my cheeks. “I can barely figure out if I have to pee or not.”

I’d known, to be fair, that The Guy (now formerly) On My Couch was planning to move – he’d spent the weekend checking out places to move, I’d just assumed it was at a *waves hand* far off time way in the future. So when he said this, I expected that he meant a *waves hand* far off time way in the future.

Wrong assumption.

A couple of minutes later, I asked him, “When are you moving?” assuming his answer would be a *waves hand* far off time way in the future.

“Tonight,” he replied, suddenly interested in staring his shoes.

My jaw dropped as I did my best trout impression, “TONIGHT?”

I couldn’t fathom it – I understood the motivations behind his departure (probably more than anyone else) but the timing was atrocious. I did the only thing a non-sane person could do, I began to scream at him. Appropriate? No. Out of character? Yes.

The children arrived home as I sat on my couch, sobbing and snorting into my snot-filled Kleenex like some overgrown toddler: my very best friend was leaving when I needed him the most. The kids came home and piled onto the two of us (no easy feat, considering we were on separate ends of a couch) like they did to us every day. I hugged them and sent them off to the other room to put on some cartoons with a potentially annoying lead character (which, let’s face it, is all of them).

The surge of anger died down as I hugged my best friend in the world, one of the few people who really knew me, and said, “Happy Trails.”

He grabbed his things, waved a sad goodbye to me, his face drawn and wan, and walked out of the door, ready to face his new life.

The sobs wracked through my body as though my heart were breaking. Which, I suppose, it was.

This time, all three of my children bounded into the room, hands outstretched and overflowing with Band-Aids and (oddly) some fish stickers. I thanked them as they covered all visible parts of my body, hugging them close enough that I could feel their tiny heartbeats.

And for one moment – one single moment – my heart felt as though it hadn’t just shattered.

*A big part of suicide is The Plan – if one has a plan as to how they intend to suicide, they are considered more of a risk for actually going through with the attempt. Thanks for the info, Nursing School!

The Nervous Breakdown Chronicles: Providence

Part I

I laughed a minute, through the sobs, recalling a joke so old that when it flitted through my mind, dust poured from my brain:

“One day, the suicide hotline got mixed up and began to play that (now old) Nike slogan: “Just Do It.”

Because you know what suicidal people need?

MORE COWBELL things getting in the way of finding help. I’d spent the entire weekend waiting for Monday, the day I knew I could get get the ball moving with my GP as well as begin the long and obnoxious process of finding a therapist. And so far I’d been met with this:

1) A doctor’s office who seemed to be ignoring me like I was a stalky ex-girlfriend

B) A suicide prevention hotline that, when I was told to “wait on the line,” disconnected me.

Nervous Breakdown: 2

Aunt Becky: 0

Being tenacious, even in my breakdown, I decided that I would call back – perhaps I’d been lulled by the soothing voice on the phone and had not, in fact, pressed a number like a good little semi-suicidal person should. I did.

This time, a woman with a German accent so incredibly thick it sounded as though she was speaking through honey, answered the phone. Not being one who likes to pour her heart out to complete strangers (which, I think even Alanis Morisette would agree is particularly ironic considering that is precisely what I’ve been doing since I started this blog), I was immediately on guard. Would she Baker-Act me? Did Illinois HAVE a Baker Act? Where were my pants? And where in the name of the Good Lord of Butter was that damn python?

Fucking snakes.

She introduced herself and asked me why I’d called the hotline, or at least, I think she did. It sounded more like,

“Hi, my name is (garbled), and you’ve reached the suicide hotline.”

“Uh, HI,” I said, sobbing heavily, which I was pretty sure made me as indecipherable as her German. “I’m Becky.”

Except it probably sounded like, “I-I-I-I I’m Bu-bu-bu-Becky.” (snotty interlude)

“Hai, Becky,” she returned, “Vhy did yew call us today?”

Sputtering, I spit out (really wish WordPress had a “weepy” translation so I could toggle a button and translate my words into whiny hysterical bitch mode.)(I’ve also, a time or two, wish there was a “translate into pirate-ese) “I’m just losing it – I’m having a nervous breakdown. Things have been so bad.” I’m sure she heard something like, “Snorrrrrttttt….nerbous break…things….bad.

“Vat,” she inquired, “Is dee problem? What hassss been going on?”

“Well,” I said, “I’b habing problems and I’b overwhelmed and so sad (as though I needed to point that out to someone I was acutely weeping toward) and I don’t know what to do.” I trailed off into a snotty burble.

“Arrrrr you married?” She asked – or I think that’s what she asked –  she could have asked if I’d been contemplating my new life as an alien or a man named Steve – I couldn’t be sure.

“Yeah – but we’ve been having some struggles. He’s said some things that I don’t know you can take back.”

She clucked sympathetically, and rather than delve into those problems, which, you know, I’d have preferred skewing my eyeballs out with fondue forks than really delve into with a woman whose accent made it sound as though she was continually insulting me.

“I’m not sure he loves me anymore. He says he doesn’t,” I sobbed.

“Do you believe in a higher power?” she asked, and confused as to how it related to my husband’s love – or lack thereof – for me, I answered thoughtfully, “uhhhh, yes,” but before she could answer and harangue me with her Bible Talk, I quickly responded, “but I am not particularly religious.” Which is mostly the truth. Or as much of the truth as I cared to delve into with a woman who had (I presume) the capacity to call the cops on me, especially since the last thing I’d taken away from my upbringing was “do not discuss religion. End of story.”

“Vell,” she continued, “tap into zee energy of zaaa vorld. Can you feeeeel zeee energy of zeeee planets? Da sun, da planets, da universe, all sending their energy to yoooou.”

Great, I’d gotten the only (presumably) suicide counselor who believed in zeee power of zeee planets. Oh well, I shrugged, at least she wasn’t telling me “Christ died for YOOOOU,” because how is THAT comforting? (answer: it’s not)

“Uh, yeah,” I responded, the tears slowing a bit. Maybe there was something TO this suicide hotline – she’d certainly distracted me from my nervous breakdown as I wondered a) where she lived b) whether she did Tarot readings and 3) was she (currently) burning some Nag Champa?

We hung up soon after that – once you talk astral energy, you don’t have anywhere else to go.

I began, as I’d been doing on and off for a couple of days, to sob once again, the moment I hung up. I returned to the computer to assure my two best friends, Jana and Crys, that I was not, in fact, off offing myself. They’d been calling local therapists to see if I’d be able to get in to see someone ASAP, so I wasn’t particularly surprised when the phone rang.

I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered it anyway with a tentative, “Hello?”

“Hi Becky,” a soothing male voice greeted me. “It’s (insert name of old shrink). How are you?”

Assuming that this had been the handiwork of Jana, who’d been lovingly called some therapists while both of the guys in my life (Ben, and the Guy Formerly on the Couch) had gone off to work, I continued speaking to him.

I spoke honestly: “I’m not so good – I think I need to come in for a session soon.”

“Okay, how’s Thursday at 1PM?” He asked. “Hopefully, I’ll have the air on by then – the storms cut off my power and water, which means I’m sweating like a pig.”

“Sounds good to me,” I snorted, the tears falling fast.

“I’ll pencil you in for every Thursday through July,” he said, clearly hearing sobs.

“Oookay,” I replied.

“Now, I was calling to ask about Dave – he has an appointment today and I have no air conditioning. Figured I’d double check with him as to whether he wanted to show. I don’t have his cell – what is it?”

I doled out Dave’s cell phone number and we exchanged our goodbyes.

I sat, staring at the phone somewhat quizzically – how had Jana known that this was my old therapist? Eventually, I sent Jana an IM – “did you call my old therapist?”

“Nope,” she said in her mouthful-of-sugar Southern accent. “Why?”

“He just called out of the blue. On the one day I’m having a nasty nervous breakdown.”

“Wow,” Jana said. “Wild.”

I was quiet a moment while I thought.

“That? That’s Providence,” I said. “With a capitol P.”

And thus began my road to recovery.

Breaking Down

I was in the third grade when I had my first nervous breakdown.

No one ever quite knows if I’m joking when I say this – they’re always standing there all nervous-like, wondering if they should laugh or look sympathetic. It makes sense – half the people I know don’t know if I’m joking when I say anything from, “I’m having a miscarriage,” to “I just lost my best friend.” They’re accustomed to the punch-line, the quip, the joke, and when none comes, they stand there, shuffling their feet, looking around for someone to rescue them from what is now a decidedly awkward situation.

I never know whether to laugh or cry when I’ve put myself in this situation.

But it’s the truth – in third grade, I had my first nervous breakdown. I threatened suicide. My parents took me to a shrink, who’s name eludes me, but I want to call him, “Mark,” because I think that was his name. I’d sit there, week after week, staring at the curls on his head, which were tightly wound, as though he’d had a reverse shock treatment or a particularly bad perm. He’d have been the last white man with an Afro, had his hair not been dripping with hair product. His face reminded me of a reddened potato, the tell-tale alcoholic signs apparent to me even then – his nose looked somewhat like a potato, streaked with broken blood vessels and pores so large you could probably read a cryptic Morse code message in them.

I can’t remember what we discussed, but I do recall staring at his gigantic pores, wondering if I could, in fact, take a swim in them.

Eventually, I said enough of the right things to convince him that I was okay and I was discharged from treatment.

I was eight years old.

I’ve had a few nervous breakdowns throughout the years, every now and again when the going gets too tough, the lie gets too big, and the pain is no longer able to be beaten back into submission. I’ve never found a good “cure” for these breakdowns – if I were an alcoholic, I’m sure I’d go on a binge, and hell, I’m half-tempted to TRY it just to make these feelings; this darkness stop.

I’d been spiraling quite awhile, of this there is no doubt. The thanks-but-no-thanks AVID letter was what clued me into it – and I did nothing, hoping the situation would go away, I’d be presented with (or find) another solution, or that this would blow over. That I’d wake up one day and not dread whatever the day would bring. That the pervasive sadness would somehow dissipate and I’d be left to see the world as it truly is, not distorted through the haze of sadness.

It didn’t work out.

Which is why I began my descent into nervous breakdown territory sometime late last week. I spent the weekend balled up on the couch, a weeping mess, unable to find the joy; the hope that had, mere moments before, been swirling about.

Monday, I told myself. Monday I’d call the doctor and get some help – it’s clear my antidepressants aren’t working properly, and the insomnia, maybe he’d be able to offer me something to beckon me to the Land of Nod beyond the cocktail of Benedryl and Melatonin taken in doses so ridiculous that I should’ve been dead.

Finally, Monday rolled around and when it did, I called the doctor. The phone rang and rang, without directing me to their directory “Press One If You Have An STD,” “Press Two If You Hate Medicaid.”

Curious.

Also, it would serve to fit that the one time I genuinely needed to see my doctor, his phone wasn’t working. Fabulous. I’d finally hit my “semi-suicidal” state, and help was nowhere to be found. Unless, of course, I went to the ER, but what were they going to do? Illinois version of the Baker-Act? Tell me it was “all in my head” and make me feel worse? I didn’t know, but I knew that whatever happened there, I wouldn’t be ready for. And The Guy Formerly On My Couch had my car – I didn’t need an ambulance.

The seconds ticked steadily by, each slower than the one before, my panic reaching a fever pitch, the buzzing in my ears growing louder and louder as I ran to the bathroom, clutching my sides, vomiting up whatever was in my stomach.

How did it get to be so bad? How did someone who created a place where “none of us are alone” end up so damn alone? I didn’t know. I couldn’t understand. How did it get to be so bad?

I tried the doctor’s office again – this time I got a voicemail that informed me that the power, water, and phone lines were out. Fucking perfect.

The tears pooled down my face and onto my shirt as I reached out to the one place I could think of: the suicide prevention hotline. I didn’t want to die – I wanted to end my suffering. I wanted to live; and live without that sadness looming, threatening to suffocate me if I wasn’t hypervigilant, watching my back at every turn. It was so exhausting. The temptation to give up, and give in to the calling darkness was tremendous.

Hands shaking, I dialed the number and listened to the prerecorded message about “staying on the line for help,” and listened to the nice soothing hold music, wondering how I was going to spill out the mess of my life to a stranger, sobbing at the mess my life had become.

I heard a click, then silence. Within a couple of seconds, the loud BEEP BEEP BEEP signaled one thing:

My call had been dropped.

The suicide prevention hotline had dropped my damn call.

I’d have laughed if I hadn’t been sobbing.

Pathway Through (The) Secret Door

This part of year is always hardest for me.

I’d like to say I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, mostly because of the wicked acronym, but I don’t. My garden variety, un-cool acronymed depression mixes with the PTSD (pesticides and toxic substances division?) in a nice soupy paste of unhappiness.

Christmas, no matter how I try to play it off, is hard. Sure, I find joy in watching my children scamper about, ripping open presents and squealing in surprise at what lies beneath – that part is tops. New Years Eve almost always finds me near-tears for no fucking reason the whole day, until I wake on January 1, and feel, well, lighter. The elephant sitting squarely upon my chest is gone, as are the fifty pound weights attached to my neck.

I don’t know why this happens to me. But it does – every year.

After the holidays pass, and I am finally able to breathe again, it is time for my daughter’s birthday. My daughter. My daughter who will be three this year, and has not once had the birthday party I’ve wanted to give her. It is my fault – January 1, the anxiety takes over and I’m barely able to leave the house. I become a slave to it – the thoughts it gives me, “you’ve lost all your friends,” “no one will come to her party,” “you’re weak – you should be able to do it.”

Those thoughts beat at me until I relent, deciding upon a “quiet family party,” playing it off like that’s all I’ve actually wanted to do, anyway. I mean, she won’t remember it anyway, so why bother? She’s only (insert young age here).

What they – you – don’t know is that it’s not by choice. It’s never been a choice. If I could choose, it would be her birthday tomorrow, I could skip the month of January, only to wake up on January 28 to a perfectly executed party attended by those whom I love and who love me too (short list as it may be).

I decided, as I always do, that it’s time to get ready for that party – to finally do it. This was during the end of December, that awful week between Christmas and New Years. For a whole week, my resolve, it was strong.

Just yesterday, I realized that I didn’t have the addresses of many of those who I wanted to invite. And shit, it’s already January 3, and her party is in like 4 weeks. That’s not enough time. Maybe I shouldn’t do it. I should just throw her a nice quiet family party or take her for Mouse Pizza in the seventh circle of parental hell. I shouldn’t throw her a party. No one will come, anyway.

And shit – she won’t remember it anyway.

(Amelia’s drawing of a good guy being attacked by bad guys)

I felt that hopelessness, that despair, sink in – I’ve been here before and I’ve always chosen to listen to that asshole voice in my ear – no one WILL come. It’s pointless to throw a toddler a party. I’m weak.

Then I stopped.

Before I could spiral any more, I stopped myself, and went over to evite – y’know, those crappy email invites? Yeah, I never use those. I love stationary, and paper invitations and nice thick envelopes, and handmade cards (it’s the same reason I never send Christmas cards – I get overwhelmed by the beautiful ones I could be making and end up sending none at all) and fuck email invitations.

Within ten minutes, I had an invitation ready to send. Ten minutes after that, I’d sent it to ten people.

I cannot tell you, Pranksters, how proud of myself I am. I looked my demons in their eyes and told them to fuck the fuck off. I will throw my daughter a party and people will come. There will be a house full of people who love her, even if half my friends live scattered around the country.

For that day, I will insist that my demons wear party hats and serve punch. If they don’t like it? They can go back into my closet. Because that day, that day is for my daughter.

She will finally get the celebration I’ve wanted to give her for three long years.

The pink balloons – like my heart – will, at long last, fly.

*If you guys are local, (I’m in a suburb of Chicago), we’d love to have you – and not because she needs presents, but because she needs to meet so many of the people who love her. I mean it. Just send me your email address and I’ll send you the evite…if you promise not to judge me for it.

Scar Tissue

I saw it in his eyes – a brief glimpse of deep sorrow – before he began dictating to his nurse the clamps and implants he’d need to fix the encephalocele atop my daughter’s head. It was the same deep sorrow I saw in the eyes of every person in the waiting room at the neurosurgeon’s office realized that Amelia Harks was, in fact, not me, but a tiny baby in a carseat, no bigger than my arm.

In that brief moment, the neurosurgeon became human, not some arrogant doctor, about to saw into my daughter’s tiny head.

Now that tiny baby, no bigger than my arm, is a toddler with an attitude so reminiscent of my own that it’s hard for me to remember that they are one and the same.

As she grows, the scar does too. What once looked relatively small now encompasses much of head. Her curls, always in a halo, cover it, so I don’t receive the same sorrowful looks I once did. For that, I am grateful. For if I did, if I had to explain those turbulent first years of her life, I don’t know if I could stop the sobs.

People, well-meaning people, tell me the scar is “barely noticeable” that they can “hardly see it,” and I always thank them on her behalf. Inwardly, however, I wonder if they know how that hurts.

It would not matter to me if the scar somehow became invisible – although she might appreciate it some day – because it’s always there for me. The scar haunts me.

Most days, I am able to work through it, reminding myself that she, my warrior daughter, is here and that she is perfect – scars and all.

There are other days, though, that the limitless well of deep sorrow I once saw reflected in the neurosurgeon’s eyes, threatens to swallow me whole. The tears, hot and fast, course down my face and I am powerless.

I scoop that toddler, once a baby no bigger than my arm, up into my arms and I weep. Confused, she touches my tears with her tiny finger and asks, “Mama sad?”

“Yes, Baby,” I choke out. “Mama’s sad.”

And the three of them – flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood – climb atop me to squeeze the Sads out. It’s only then, with the pressure of three squirmy bodies on my chest, all elbows and knees now, that I finally feel whole again.

And I wonder, as they scamper down, screaming and chasing each other about the house, my tears drying to a hard crust on my face, the well of sorrow closing for the moment, how I got to be so lucky.

amelia-and-alex-greenhouse

Perhaps This Is Fate’s Way of Telling Me To ROADTRIP

Because I am a narcissistic asshole, I have carefully chronicled the problems I have had with flying. While I am sure that MOST have you have carefully poured over my archives while wearing an “I HEART AUNT BECKY SHIRT” while burning incense at your Aunt Becky Alter, for those of you who haven’t had time, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes Version:

(P.S. I’d use real bullets, but the make the font REALLLLY tiny and then I get upset because it LOOKS BAD and then I get anal and wring my hands about it and then I realize that maybe I SHOULD have been a graphic designer except that I am not THAT anal because I am distracted by the promise of hot dogs)

*I have been singled out and strip searched by the TSA for most of my flights since I was a small child. I used to think that it was because I was devastatingly sexy, but no, I realized that I actually look sort of maybe Middle Eastern. Racial profiling does, in fact, exist.

*All of my luggage was lost on my honeymoon. In fact, my honeymoon was a disaster from the moment it began until it ended. We did get our luggage back, BUT LOOK AT MY CORNROWS:

*On our trip to Heather Spohr’s baby shower, the tickets we printed at home were all ‘SEE TICKETING AGENT’ which never bodes well, because obviously. So we were all nervous because we’d never been away before and then the tickets were MYSTERIOUS and turns out, we were on an exit row.

*Flight HOME from Heather’s baby shower, the plane nearly crashed. No, seriously. It wasn’t funny.

So I wasn’t exactly happy to be getting on a plane to go to my cruise because, well, something always seems to be amiss and airline travel now is a HUGE pain in the butthole. But CRUISE! How could I go wrong?

The flight out was delayed about an hour, but whatever, I was coming in the day before and it all worked out.

The flight HOME, see, now, THIS is where I got fucked.

I’d made the mistake of buying some ridiculously overpriced shit at the salon on the ship. Those of you (read: ALL of you) who will be going on our cruise, HEED MY WARNING, the cruise ship’s salon is INSANELY expensive. So, I bought some shit before I knew what it cost and then realized it was over the 3 ounce limit the TSA allows.

(the terrorists are SO winning)

So I’m all, okay, I’ll check my motherfucking bag. WHATEVER. I drop my twenty-five bucks at the American Airlines curbside check-in and the guy is all “I’ll take care of it for you.” And then I said bye to my bag as it was loaded onto the back.

I got home and couldn’t walk straight which should have been the first sign that I was coming down with the flu, but I’d been traveling all day, so I was all “WHATEVER” and went to bed. The next day, I was equally mumbly and went around in a fog and basically walked into walls and still couldn’t figure out why my brain felt like it had been attacked by ice cream scoops.

The FOLLOWING day, I finally attempted to unpack my suitcase, where it had languished in the hallway, and, upon looking closer at one of my ridiculously overpriced salon boxes, I realized something: it was empty. After calling a meeting of the usual suspects, I realized that it couldn’t POSSIBLY have been my children, who lacked the dexterity to open such a box.

Which meant one thing: I’d been robbed by American Airlines, not the TSA, because they didn’t leave their calling card.

Also missing: my iPod/iPhone/iPad charger (the same piece of equipment).

American Airlines has tried to help but is basically like “*shrugs* We opened a case for you.” Did you know they have a whole DEPARTMENT for this shit? A PILFERED BAGGAGE department? That’s fucked up, yo.

I’m planning to call American EXPRESS (the card I used to buy my ridiculous face cream on) who may be able to leverage a little more weight than me and my Twitter Campaign of Doom will be able to, because genuinely, I’m not thinking much will come of this at all.

It’s just all so fucked up. I mean, we can’t really LOCK our baggage to keep them out because the TSA has to be able to access our stuff at all times to search it, and we can’t do anything about getting our stuff back because how can I really PROVE that my stuff is missing?

If this is the new world order, I don’t like it, Pranksters.

Everything Is Wrong With Me

I have this question in my Go Ask Aunt Becky folder, where it’s sat since October:

Aunt Becky, what’s your favourite blog to read?  Or maybe your top five, since choosing one is probably as difficult as choosing between your children. Or is it?  I only have one child and therefore have never faced that particular predicament.  Anyhow, I’m always on the prowl for something new to read, so a nudge in the right direction would be appreciated.

I’ve tried to answer it probably no less than 20 times, but every time I do, I immediately feel guilty because the asker is indeed correct: it’s like choosing between my children. I want to grab up my blogroll and hold you all close and scream, “BUT AUNT BECKY LOVES YOU ALL IN YOUR OWN SPECIAL WAY, DAMMIT!”

I’m not much of a “favorites” person anyway. When asked to pick my favorite song, I’ll tell you what it is TODAY (Up on Cripple Creek, The Band) but tomorrow I can assure you it will be different. It’s not so much that I’m fickle, it’s just that I change my mind often. Unless we’re talking about hot dogs, which are God’s way of saying howdy.

But I’ve tried to think of my all-time favorite blogs and I can’t narrow it down past about 30.

On that top list, however, remains a blog that I’ve read since Your Aunt Becky started blogging on my old blog Mushroom Printing. I don’t know how I found Jason Mulgrew’s blog, Everything is Wrong With Me, but I assure you that it was probably the best thing I ever did find on The Internet, and that includes Poop Senders (thank you Kristin).

I peed a little when I found Jason, and then I immediately declared that he was my Internet Boyfriend, which is a little scary since most of my Internet/Television Boyfriends are actually fictional characters and Jason is a real person, but that’s pretty much the highest compliment I can give someone. But that’s just how worthy of admiration and restraining orders that Jason is.

Then proving that I have friends who are better than I am (which, Pranksters IS always the way to go), he joined the ranks of my friends like Lauren Leto, Gretchen Rubin, Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, Danny Evans and Chris Mancini and wrote himself a motherhumping book.

When I got his book, Everything is Wrong With Me, I actually read it. I know, ME reading WORDS! And all this time you thought I was illiterate! Anyway, Pranksters, it’s the funniest fucking thing I’ve read in the longest time and that includes the warning on my hairdryer not to bathe with it (because, OBVIOUSLY, the picture shows someone being electrocuted).

The book is full of The Awesome and if you need any proof that Jason is as funny as I’m promising him to be, go here. Your Aunt Becky doesn’t lie about The Funny.

So, here’s the deal, Pranksters, you require this book. And I am giving you the opportunity to win a copy of it because OBVIOUSLY. Let’s do a contest, Pranksters.

For a chance to win a copy of this book (and if you don’t win, just buy the book because it’s really worth it). You have until May 18 to enter. Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

1) Leave a comment telling us YOUR top five blogs and why you love them.

2) Do an homage to Jason a la YOUR life in pictures on YOUR OWN blog but give a linkage back here. THEN leave the link in the comments here so people can laugh at your awesomeness.

3) Blah, blah, blah, follow me on Twitter.

4) Blog about who you would nominate for the Nobel Prize of Awesomness (I’m always nominating the person who made the cheeseburger) and why. Then link here, and leave the link in the comments so we can read it.

5) Squirt, squirt, use the Google Friend Connect follow button publicly, which looks like pubic, which makes me laugh.

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Good luck, Pranksters.