I wasn’t going to go, but I didn’t know how to take care of myself yet. Then there I was, November 27, 2014, in a beautiful house full of mostly strangers, taking care of my 3-year-old while my husband had fun with his co-workers.
I was jumping out of my skin. Every minute was an hour. All I could think of was death.
The day before, I had finally made the decision to overdose myself into final sleep. I was done. I couldn’t take one more day, one more minute, in my body – in my mind – in my life.
I got in my car and headed toward death. The relief I felt was so great that I laughed out loud, which was a mindfuck in itself. Knowing I was going to die made me feel alive.
Then I saw it. The fucking Christmas tree lot setting up at our local community college. All at once the weight of 3+ years of postpartum depression, triggered PTSD, perimenopause and mismanaged Hashimoto’s came crashing back into my for-a-split-second-in-time light body.
The weight was unbearable. I stopped eating a few months prior because an antipsychotic had taken away my appetite completely. My body was so frail I feared my bones would crumble from the weight of the returning depression.
You will ruin every holiday for him for the rest of his life.
That was the crushing truth. My plans for freedom were destroyed. I had to stay here.
So I dragged my weak and sick body to Thanksgiving. For my husband. For my son.
The next day, November 28, 2014, I made the hardest decision of my life. I left my husband and son so I could get better.
My big sister bought me an airline ticket back home to Reno. Two of my dear friends came over, packed my bags and drove me to LAX. I was so weak, I don’t know how I got on that plane.
But I did. My sister picked me up at the airport. I had black circles under my eyes and all of my ribs and spine showed through my skin.
The next day, I was hospitalized for the second time that year. After I got out, I stayed with my sister and mom and they made sure I ate three meals a day.
I stayed for 5 weeks. My husband was considering divorce. I missed Christmas with my son. So many people were mad at me. I didn’t know how I would ever be a mom again.
But I was going to stay alive and be the best mom I could be.
My plan was to get an apartment. I was going to try TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Therapy) and if that didn’t work, I was going to try ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) and long-term residential treatment.
Even if my son had a permanently hospitalized mentally ill mom, he would have an alive mom.
I’m going back to that beautiful house tonight for Thanksgiving for the first time since 2014. I’m finally well enough to return. My husband and I have been married 14 years and we’re best friends. My son is 6 and in kindergarten.
And I’m a great mom.
To say I’m grateful today isn’t even skimming the surface. I’m not supposed to be here. I’ve been given another chance at life.
I’ll probably get triggered tonight, but I have the tools to walk through the feelings and have a good time. And I can always leave if I’m miserable. No one is responsible for taking care of me, but me.
And that’s true freedom. Happy Thanksgiving to you all whatever headspace you’re in. I love you.
I was really fucking angry yesterday and Thursday. I wanted to hurt people. I wanted to punch and kick and make people cry. For those of you who know me, I’m all about peace and love. So this feeling is fundamentally against everything I believe in.
I acted on this feeling a little bit and I owe an amends. I used to get violent before I stopped drinking 20 years ago and I never made amends for the wrongs I did during my rages. There has been a lot of improvement in this area.
At first, I assumed the few things in my life were not going the way I think they ought to was the cause of my anger, but then I started my period Friday morning. I rarely have had periods in the past few years, but when I do, they’re brutal.
See, I entered the lovely world of perimenopause at the young age of 39. Perimenopause is so misunderstood that spell-check doesn’t even recognize it. Basically it’s around 5-10 years of hell, (Scary Mommy describes it much better than I do), until we finally hit menopause, which means we haven’t bled for an entire year.
And then that’s a whole different joyride, by the way.
Some women don’t experience perimenopause symptoms at all. Some women die by suicide because it’s so unbearable. The rest of us are overweight, angry and randomly hairy.
I take low estrogen birth control pills to regulate my hormones. I took bioidentical hormones for a few years, but found synthetic hormones to be less activating to my depression and mania since I have bipolar disorder.
I also have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which is another huge factor in this whole hormone game and should not be a side note, because it’s no joke.
Yeah, and I also have PTSD, which is by far the largest mental challenge of my life and I’ve never written about it, but I will. I promise.
Thankfully, I rarely experienced PMS or gnarly period symptoms for most of my life. But the second I was pregnant, my bipolar, Hashimoto’s and PTSD did not play well with my hormones. It took four years of painful trial and error before a balance of synthetic hormones, psych meds, DBSA meetings and TMS finally got me stable again.
And I stay stable by working my butt off in therapy and an entirely new 12-step program. And routine: going to bed and waking at the same time (almost), taking my meds at the same time (good friends are very aware of my 10am lithium alarm) and taking care of myself when I am not okay.
And I’m still not okay sometimes even while doing all this maintenance. Sometimes my thyroid is being funky. Sometimes my PTSD gets triggered. And sometimes my hormones attack me.
I experience manageable mania, depression and fatigue on a somewhat regular basis, but I don’t experience anger very often.
I used to love my anger. I mistook it for strength. It was an emotion I could handle.
Thursday night I was so angry I wanted to cry. And scream. And go on Facebook (nooooo!).
But I can’t cry. I wish I could – the release of a good cry heals. But I can’t – mostly due to my psych meds and disassociation from my childhood trauma.
I just get to the point where I really want to cry, but I can’t. It’s like crying blue balls.
When I was sick those four years, I cried a lot. The problem was when I started crying, I couldn’t stop. I’ve cried for three days before – I literally had to take breaks at work so I could go to the bathroom and bawl. I thought it would never end.
And yes, it feels like my body and brain chemistry are out to get me, but that thinking pattern is only going to lead me to self-pity and even more anger.
So this is how I stopped myself from going down the rabbit hole of rage (that would be a great band name) and doing some real damage to anyone within my screaming range:
- I paused. I admitted to myself that my body and mind are sick right now.
- I stopped the Facebook rampage I was about to go on that would only make me much more angry and would hurt people.
- I texted my husband and let him know what was going on.
- I happened to have a tattoo session scheduled so I showed up and am honest about where I am.
- And as the pain of the needle into my skin began, I thanked the Universe for putting me in the right place at the right time. I focused on moving the pain in my heart to the pain of the art.
- I asked her to stop after two hours because when I could no longer take the pain.
- I ate a healthy dinner and watched HBO with my husband.
- I went to bed on time. I took my night meds on time. I got a great night of sleep.
- I made amends to my friend who I hurt.
This morning I was woken up by my 6-year-old son and we’ve laid around in bed the whole morning, him playing on his iPad, me writing. I haven’t given in to the perfect mother in my head who knows too much screen time is bad for him because so is a screaming mother.
I still feel the anger lurking around me, but it’s not in me. I’m about to publish this blog that is way too long, but if you’ve read this far, comment “I LOVE CARROTS” and I will send huge love rays your way.
I feel release.
I know the rage is right there, waiting for me to get tired or frustrated, so I asked my husband to take our 6-year-old for the afternoon so I can take a big nap.
And that’s it for now. I love you with all of my heart. Thanks for reading.
November 15, 1997 was my first day without a drink. I haven’t had a drink since.
There will be no celebrations. No cake. No friends singing. No applause.
See, I’ve relapsed twice on drugs. At 9 months, I did a whip-it. It was a knee-jerk reaction to seeing my roommate’s can of glorious Reddi Wip in the fridge.
(I still can’t have a can of whipped cream in my house as I don’t trust myself with it. I blame my first job at Dairy Queen. More on that later.)
My last relapse was at 15 years sober on a hit of pot. Yes, just one hit, but that one hit gave me a yearlong obsession to drink again.
And I was suicidal at the time so I know I wouldn’t have survived a drink.
That’s hilarious. I’ve never had a drink. My goal was always four. Just have four and leave the bar.
I succeeded maybe twice.
People ask me if I can have just a glass of wine. I see no point. That would be like waiting in line for a roller coaster for two hours and then going down a kiddy slide instead.
I want to ride the roller coaster. And once I’m done, I want to ride it again. And after that – well why stop at two? And then I don’t know where my clothes are and why my boyfriend just broke up with me.
I’m a member of a 12-step program – it’s how I got and continue to stay sober. I’m very grateful for the program. But a lot of members are very wrapped up in “sober time.” As in how many days, weeks, years IN A ROW you’ve been sober.
I was proud of my years. My friends threw a huge 10 year party for me. My mom came into town. It was a big fucking deal.
By the time I turned 15, I was so depressed I could only stand for 5-minutes. There was still cake, less friends and celebration.
The problem was I became more impressed by the years than grateful for the days.
And the only amount of time any of us have is today.
And that’s how I live my life now. My sobriety date is the same as any day sober, but I reflect on where I was mentally, physically and spiritually however many years ago the decision to live (yet again) was made.
And the reflection brings gratitude, as it should. But here’s the flip – now it brings humility of how powerful alcoholism is in my life instead of a feeling of accomplishment.
I’m not proud of my sobriety. I’m fucking grateful and humbled by it.
That was NOT my attitude when I had many years sober. (Even saying “I had years” sounds weird to me now. I have today. I don’t “have” yesterday or the guarantee of a tomorrow. It just seems cocky to “have time.”)
Remaining sober for many years made me cocky and complacent. I believed all those the years “I had” were a safeguard against relapse. Alcoholism is very patient and it waits for us to think we’re safe, immune or above a relapse.
I thought I was safe because the most common reasons people relapse are:
1. They stop working with other alcoholics.
2. They stop taking commitments at meetings and then stop going to meetings.
3. They think they no longer have alcoholism.
Here’s why I was totally fine:
1. I was sponsoring four women and had a sponsor. And a grandsponsor. And so on and so forth.
2. I went to four committed meetings a week (all while I had a baby at home).
3. I have never, ever – for the past 20 years – ever thought I didn’t have alcoholism. I’m so clear that my body and brain chemistry does some funky shit when I ingest alcohol. And that ending up naked and peeing in public is not what normal drinkers do after a glass of wine.
Why did I relapse then? I was in year three of a four year battle with crippling postpartum depression and I wanted relief from the pain. Every waking moment was pure torture mentally and physically and I was at my breaking point.
I ended up taking the wrong medicine for my ailment. And it wasn’t prescribed to me.
But I didn’t drink. And I wanted to with every molecule of my body. And I wanted to die. All of the time.
What I didn’t know was that I didn’t want to drink or die – I just wanted relief. For me, when my pain gets so great for so long, I want out.
I am celebrating quietly today. With every breath. Because I’m alive. I have today. It’s all I have and I’m so grateful for it.
Because we all just have today. If we’re lucky.
I had crippling postpartum depression for four years and for two of those years I blogged about what I thought was my journey to wellness. I went off my meds for Bipolar Disorder, did Crossfit, ate nothing but meat and vegetables (Paleo Autoimmune Protocol because I decided my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis was the cause of my deteriorating mental health and don’t you know, food is medicine!), did tons of yoga, meditated like a motherfucker and took 800 million supplements a day,
Surprisingly, that journey ended up being a highway to hell. I ended up in and out of mental hospitals and almost killing myself in 2014. Everyday was torture.
I just turned 44 and I’m stoked. I feel great. I finally get to enjoy being a mom. I can get out of bed. I’m a stand-up comic. I laugh all the time. I have amazing friends and family. Life is better than I ever, ever could’ve imagined.
So I decided to take a look at my old blog to see if I made any birthday posts. I present to you where I was mentally and physically 5 years ago.
. . .
My 39th Birthday
My 39th birthday is tomorrow and I’m in day 3 of a very heavy bipolar depression. I love my birthday. It’s my favorite day of the year. My own personal holiday.
And I’ve never, ever been depressed on my birthday before, which makes me even more depressed.
And I’m getting a sore throat. Not shocking.
Trying to get out of this one feels like trying to pull a huge wet comforter out of the washing machine – no matter how hard I tug, twist and pull, it’s too heavy and twisted to rescue tonight. Maybe in the morning, when I have the strength.
Mornings are better. Waking up is never lovely for me, but I have enough energy to get to about noon before the tingles come – then I know the morning was a lie.
I hate the tingles. They feel like the shivers feel on the outside of the skin, only just under the surface. Tingles are from the inside out. I haven’t met many other people who get tingly depressions, but individuals with different brain chemistry have their own separate internal experiences. Perhaps depressions are like snowflakes, only a hell of a lot less pretty.
And my brain chemistry makes me tingly for some reason.
My severe depressions are just as physical as they are mental. That’s why even if I can force myself to exercise – which is very difficult in a depression – I have to take it easy because I have injured myself badly in the past. Mental injury is bad enough, adding physical to it truly blows.
I really don’t want to share what I’m about to share, but I feel compelled to do so. Super ugh. I’m not a big fan of being vulnerable. Although my life seems to be an open book, I’m well aware that I choose what I want the world to see.
I feel defeated.
I’ve worked so hard and here I am again.
I’m doing everything right and here I am again.
It’s been almost 2 years since I was well.
Maybe I’ll never be balanced again.
How much longer can my husband handle having a sick wife?
Everyone has their breaking point.
Because I have hope and faith and a big, fat carrot. If I believe the 3 week remission I had in September wasn’t an accident and the 3 year remission I had a few years ago wasn’t an accident, then this depression, as much as it sucks, isn’t an accident as well.
Now, my everything hurts so goodnight.
. . .
I no longer believe in remission from bipolar disorder. Being stable for the past 2+ years doesn’t mean that I’ve been in remission. I’ve still had mania and depression, but I’m out of the bog I was in for four years. Living with bipolar disorder is a day at a time and takes an incredible amount of self-love and acceptance. And work.
Back when I wrote this post, I was in the middle of a postpartum depression which is an entirely separate beast, in my opinion. I wasn’t just fighting bipolar disorder. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. And I fought hard – I was just fighting with the wrong tools.
I turned 44-years-old today and it hit me. I’m still here.
I’m. Still. Here.
After three hospitals, an outpatient program, the countless support groups, the alcoholism, the bone-crushing depression, the grandiose manias, the coma fatigue, the suicide plans, the suicide plans, THE SUICIDE PLANS, the deaths of so many I love, that fucking childhood, the trauma on repeat… on repeat.. on repeat, the rapes, the molests, the bullying, the drugs, the alcohol, the sex – I’m still here.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Lindsay isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Shaila isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Diane isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Dan isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Liz isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Dorothy isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Doug isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Guy isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Linda isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Amy isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Steve isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Eric isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Greg isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Stan isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and Tony isn’t.
I don’t know why I’m still here and my own father isn’t.
But I do know I’m not here to hide. I’m not here to be quiet. I’m not here to be inauthentic, pandering or afraid.
This year I’m more fearless than I’ve ever been. I’m finishing my tattoo. I’m being an awesome mom to my son. And I’m auditioning for America’s Got Talent not because I want to be famous, but because I want to tell my story of hope to as many people as possible and be as helpful as possible to those suffering with invisible illnesses like mine.
Oh, and I will make you laugh. I will definitely make you laugh.
And I’m going to keep laughing. And not just chuckling, doubled-over-crying-maybe-even-peeing-a-little-bit laughing.
I will not become who I think I need to pretend to be to further my career. I will bow to no one. And no, I won’t suck your dick.
I am showing up for my life because guess what?
I’m still here.
Most of what I really need to know about life, love and waterbeds, I learned on LSD. Books are neat and everything, but I’ve learned more tripping balls in outer galaxies to Bauhaus than I ever have cuddling up with a novel with some random orange cat.
Seriously, whose cat is this?
Triplog: Stardate, Tuesday, 9/22/1987:
8:00am Mom hands me $40 in cash (in case of emergency) and goes out of town for a week.
11:30am Deem purchase of 8 hits of double–dipped Blue Lightning fry* an emergency. *1980’s Reno for LSD
2:40pm My best friend Sandy and I take one hit each on the public bus ride home.
3:25pm Transfer station. Still feel nothing. Take another hit each.
3:27pm Transfer buses.
3:28pm Decide dealer sold us bunk fry. Eat all of it.
3:45pm Bus driver turns into a pterodactyl.
3:46pm Ponder how a pterodactyl can hold a steering wheel.
4:00pm Pterodactyl squawks at us in some strange pterodactyl language we don’t speak.
4:01pm Pterodactyl stands up, screams and hops toward us pointing to the doors that have been open a very long time. We turn into liquid and pour onto sidewalk.
4:02pm Attempt standing. Legs clearly have stopped working.
4:05pm Woah, cars make rad tracers.
6:00pm Woah, look at our hands.
7:30pm Woah, look at ALL THOSE DOGS! Our legs magically, yet very awkwardly, work again. We run. If that’s what you call it.
8:00pm Can’t get in front door. Fuck. It’s not Sandy’s house.
9:00pm Can’t get in front door. Fuck. It’s not Sandy’s house.
10:00pm Can’t get in front door. Fuck. It’s not Sandy’s house.
11:00pm Found Sandy’s house! Front door bush monster hits the key out of the keyhole over and over.
11:30pm Go around back. Did Sandy’s mom start a rabbit farm? At least 700 multicolored rabbits in backyard. Bunnies are rad!
11:50pm Loch Ness Monster blocking the back door.
Triplog: Stardate, Wednesday, 9/23/1987:
Midnight Defeat Loch Ness Monster with help of magical, yet surprisingly violent, rabbits.
12:03am Thank bunnies.
12:05am Finally get in house. Walls are breathing so heavy they squeeze Sandy and I into each other on an inhale. On next exhale, hightail it to Sandy’s big sister’s room.
12:15am Walls inhale again and push us onto magical bed made of water.
12:16am Determine waterbeds were invented for drug use.
12:17am Everything makes sense. I am one with the universe. Just don’t move.
12:20am “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” comes on. On repeat.
12:21am I am melting into the bed. I’m in the universe. Stars surround me. The music envelops me. I’m the only person in the world and it’s rad.
12:45am The sound of screaming harshes my mellow. It’s coming from inside the waterbed. Peel back all bedding. SCREAMING BUBBLES.
?am Bubbles speak. “We’re trapped! We can’t breathe under here!”
?am Why must I always be the superhero?
?am Search for something sharp. Wet n’Wild black eyeliner pencil. Yes!
?am SET BUBBLES FREE! A huge stream of water shoots out of the magical bed.
Time slows down. Everything in slow motion. Screaming. Coming from out of Sandy’s face.
Shame courses through my body. I look in the mirror. I’m a monster. My eyes are black. I am going to die tonight.
A tube of Bright Red lipstick jumps into my hand. It’s a sign. I open it all the way up. What is this mysterious substance? I smash all of it into my hand and rub it all over my face.
The door opens. Kittens fill the room. An 8-foot tall neon green electric eel with red hair screams at us. “IT IS 4 O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING, WHAT ARE – ARE YOU DRUNK? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WATERBED? COURTNEY, ARE YOU BLEEDING?
4:00am We could barely hear her over all the meowing, so we repeat, “We’re on fry! We’re on fry!” over and over again.
“I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU’RE ON, YOU ARE CLEANING THIS WATER UNTIL THERE IS NONE LEFT!”
2:00pm We finished bucketing and siphoning out all the water. Sandy’s mom made me walk home.
?pm Somehow I found my house all by myself. My face was still covered in bright red lipstick.
?pm I found my bed. Everything went black like a coma, not like sleeping. I don’t know if my eyes were open or closed.
Triplog: Stardate, Thursday, 9/24/1987:
4:00pm Red lips start ringing. All is black but lips. I want them to shut up. I pick it up. I can hear my mother. I tell her one thing only, “I’m on drugs.”
?pm My brother-in-law picks me up and reminisces about past LSD trips. I am not of this earth. I will die because of the waterbed. I want to die. I am dirty in my blood.
?pm I watch TV on sister’s couch. Two very small humans stare at me. My sister tries to remove the red lipstick from all over my face.
Triplog: Stardate, Friday, 9/25/1987:
10:30am I miss my pep rally because I was still tripping balls.
Everything I need to know is in that one trip. Like don’t take four double-dipped hits of acid unless you plan on tripping for four days. And if you do, you will miss most definitely miss your pep rally on Friday.
I also learned that bright red lipstick stains the face for approximately two weeks when left on for three days straight. I learned that waterbeds grow back (okay, not really, they bought a new one) and my family loves me unconditionally, even though they’re still laughing at me.
I think the world would be awesome if every single person took a stand and set their own personal bubbles free. Or if we all took four hours to find our front door and played with 700 bunnies before defeating the Loch Ness Monster.
Or if there was a policy in our country and all countries to say, “I’m on drugs,” when everything just gets too heavy. It’s okay to show your cards when you’ve eaten serious dong.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to go with your best friend and stay away from pterodactyls.
*originally published by Below the Fold in 2017
I watched Christie climb on the hottest guy I’d seen in my life so far. He was tall, blonde and Peter Murphy skinny.
Christie handed my new dream man 15 bucks and he slid a tiny piece of tinfoil into her back pocket. Everything was five bucks. Five to get into the club, five for a hit of fry.
And then, in perfect Christie fashion, she did a full-on Bill the Cat “ACK-THBPPT “followed by an “Arp!” and hit her arm across her body, (which was her cruel imitation of someone with a developmental disability), then grabbed me and ran us toward the bathroom.
It was so curious how she was always her weirdo self, yet was pretty popular in the Goth crowd. It reminded me of school – I had to study for hours to get an A on a test, while my friends would barely study and ace it. I mean, for fuck’s sake, I practiced my serious face for hours in the mirror only to be dragged around the club by Bill the Cat.
She (fittingly) locked us in the handicapped stall and perched herself on the back of the toilet. I hovered awkwardly as she unfolded the tiny foil origami only to expose three very small pieces of paper, each with a tiny dragon printed on it.
Fry was paper? All this anticipation for paper?
“Stick out your tongue.”
I obeyed. She placed the small piece of paper on my tongue.
“Hunter bought five sheets of windowpane double-dipped Dragon in The Dead parking lot last week. This shit is so pure – you’re going to fry balls!”
I longed for a drug jargon-to-English interpreter; instead I just smiled and nodded.
“Don’t swallow it for 20 minutes. Just let it soak in, then chew it up before you swallow.”
This was meant to be. Little did most know, but I’d been eating paper for years. I was practically built for fry.
When I was a kid, the dog didn’t eat my homework – I did. I also loved books. They were delicious. I ate half of The Velveteen Rabbit.
I loved the taste of paper and the process of eating paper. I eventually graduated to pants and it got ugly, but it was like corduroys were meant for eating those little rows just like corn on the cob.
Someone walked into the bathroom and knocked on the stall.
“Courtney? Are you in there?” Christie’s eyes got huge, but I knew that voice.
I threw open the door and hugged Sandy for days. She was meeting us there, but with all the paper eating I completely forgot.
Christie suddenly burst out of the bathroom, put the foil with the last piece of fry in Sandy’s hand and ran onto the dance floor. She didn’t like attention wandering anywhere beyond her.
We met her on the dance floor but before we could talk, Front 242’s Headhunter came on. Christie freaked the fuck out and hugged both of us. I guess she was no longer mad.
“ONE YOU LOCK THE TARGET!”
And we all started to dance. And didn’t stop. Nitzer Ebb, Tones on Tail, Sisters of Mercy, and Alien Sex Fiend later, I stopped. In the middle of the dance floor.
Goosebumps shot up my arms. The warmth started in my knees and spread throughout my body and I broke into a sweat. I thought I might be thirsty, but I couldn’t tell.
(Press play and listen while finishing this post for maximum impact.)
Bella Lugosi’s Dead came on, as if on cue. The music vibrated through me as if there was no beginning or end of my body and the song. Where did the song stop and I begin? Nowhere. We were one.
The people, pain, music, high school, my father, mom, drugs, this place, this time, the planets, gravity, dimension travel, past lives, the meaning of it all – each piece fit into an intricate puzzle and it was right in front of me. Of all of us everyday really. We just couldn’t SEE it because it was right there.
It was all so simple. If I only had a pen and paper to record the answer to everything, but that would require I get off the dance floor and that was never going to happen.
We danced until the club closed at 2am, piled into David Byrne’s* beat-up 1973 VW Bug and ended up – Sandy, Christie and me – all laying on the floor, chain smoking and watching David Byrne make enormous shadows dance on his cottage cheese ceiling with his very large hands hovering over a single candle – the only source of light in the room.
Bella Lugosi’s Dead came on. It all came back to me – the answer. So I decided to share what was in my brain with my friends and David Byrne, but my voice sounded like a swallowed warbled echo and I wasn’t quite sure about the shape of my words anymore.
David Byrne hovered over me. His face was much more liquid than solid. He smiled wider than the Cheshire Cat.
“Is this your first time riding the LSD train, little girl?”
It didn’t hit me until 36 more plays of Bella Lugosi’s Dead (David Byrne had a cassette tape with nothing on it but that song for this very specific kind of incident), five packs of cigarettes and five hours later (remember, everything’s in fives now) that I realized that I’D TAKEN LSD.
I’d finally crossed the line in the sand. A line I never drew, but a line I was familiar with – that step from minor escape to full-on hard drugs.
I was not scared.
I felt dirty from the inside out.
And I couldn’t wait to do it again.
*I found out later that David Byrne was 20-year-old named Peter Pow and was not actually David Byrne, but he was just as tall and thin and was the front man of a local, very strange band. So I wasn’t too far off.
Murderous by Nitzer Ebb, Album: That Total Age, 1987, addt’l info
Lyrics (repeat several times)
Where is the youth?
It’s time to live
It’s time to know
Shout golden shouts
Lift up your hearts
Much better now
We’re stronger now
Don’t be lazy
With the pleasure of sin
Where is the youth?
Where is the gold?
Think of the beauty
Think of your pride
Don’t back away
It’s there, it’s there for you
Hear, hear what we say
Said hear, hear what we say
Let passion spend
Let your passion spend
Better now, stronger now
It’s time, it’s time to know
It’s time, it’s time to live
Shout golden shouts
Christie was a parent’s worst nightmare. She put the “wrong” in “wrong crowd.” Of course, my attraction to the wrong crowd was no accident. It was due to a perfect mix of a shitty childhood and horrific bullying.
Saying that I slipped and fell into the bad crowd is like saying Bobby Brown single-handedly destroyed Whitney Houston. Trust me, Whitney was looking for her Bobby, and if it wasn’t that Bobby, there would’ve been another one to flash her the perfect gap-toothed come hither by the glow of a crack pipe.
That being said, I sought out the wrong crowd like a heat-seeking missile. Once I hit Christie, I exploded.
I couldn’t wait for Friday, or shall I say, FRY-day. I’m quite certain I was the only human more excited to do something that she had no idea what it was than anyone ever had been in this particular position.
I went home with Christie after school on Friday, all packed for a sleepover AND a night at the club.
Christie lived in the nice side of town on a small horse ranch. Her mom drove a BMW. But most impressive was the fact that Christie had a Nintendo.
We ate dinner with her mom, dad and younger brother and then played Super Mario Brothers until it was time to get ready for the club. For fry. The butterflies in my stomach flittered up to the top of my esophagus.
I followed Christie into her bedroom. Her walls were a mix of Robert Smith posters and horse riding ribbons. She pressed play on her tape player. And This is What the Devil Does started and she threw me on her bed.
(For a more authentic experience, press play on this song while reading the next section.)
She hopped on me – full Tigger style – and started fake fucking me. This would be a portent of what was to come like nobody’s business.
“I’m going to hug you and squeeze you and call you George!”
I struggled my way out of her attempted rape. I barely trusted her; she was the second most unpredictable human I’d met behind my bio dad.
She heated up a black Wet n’ Wild eyeliner pencil with a lighter – oh high, of course – and started applying thick HOT black eyeliner to my eyelids. I tried not to flinch.
We began comparing notes.
- We both weren’t virgins, but she was a downright whore. I’d done it once with one guy and she’d done it hella tons of times with hella lots of different guys. And one of them was over 40 – awesome!
- We both drank alcohol, but she’d already had her stomach pumped once. I was so jealous.
- We both smoked cigarettes and weed, but she smoked cloves and she didn’t get paranoid when she got high.
- We both went to Premier, but I only went once and she went 8 zillion times and knew everyone.
- We both went to Rocky Horror, but she most certainly didn’t go with her mom. Let alone two moms.
- We both felt Goth, but she was brave enough to wear it on the outside. I was too chicken to look Goth anywhere other than the Premier and I hadn’t even done that yet, so I was really only Goth in my heart and in my super deep poetry.
I was living the song Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better) – in reverse.
She was so many steps ahead of me on the badassedness scale it was like I got to the party after everyone was already drunk so I had to do 12 shots to get on the level STAT.
My competitive nature kicked in and my drive to become Goth was now at the top of my priority list. That, and keep a 3.0 GPA. Oh, and try out for drill team. And stay in French Club, Ski Club and Students Against Drunk Driving. And have everyone like me so I could stay on this planet.
Three hours later, we were dropped off at Club Underground. I don’t think my own mother would’ve recognized me. I looked like Siouxsie Sioux with blonde hair. I was nervous, but I felt almost as if I was on stage. Like I was acting. My outsides were protecting me from any rejection because it wouldn’t be me who they were rejecting. It would be this facade.
I mean, Jesus, I had Christie’s thick leather jacket on. No one was penetrating my wall.
My hands shook as I held up a clove for Christie to light. The fucking hands – they’re the only traitor on my body. They are incapable of being cool.
We walked in the front door smoking and posing, half of Woolworth’s Wet n’ Wild black makeup on our faces. Christie scanned the club for her connection, then jumped up, grabbed my hand and we ran into a crowd of underage club kids who hurt just like me: some were being molested at home, most were addicted to drugs and all had a story.
And a common solution.
Instant Club Hit (You’ll Dance to Anything) by The Dead Milkmen gives a somewhat accurate portrayal of the Goth club kids of the 80’s – by totally ripping us a new asshole. It’s basically the punk perspective of the Goth subculture. It will help you enter the world we’re going to be in for a few years…
. . .
Tune in next week to find out what fry actually is and what it does to walls!
Hello amazing readers!
I am going on Sabbatical because I’ve always wanted to say that and it sounds way more cool than I need to make some money. But don’t despair, I’m going to actually get paid to write. It’s just not about teenage sex and drugs.
This blog is my soul. On a platter. If you find yourself jonesing for a fix, just start from the beginning again. I bet we’ll meet up right at the perfect time.
I shall return once I learn to balance my new gigs. Until then, I give you the last beat of my heart.
It was time to shop for a new, rad friend. A boss. One who would propel me to new social heights. And she had to be Goth; I made up my mind that my future was going to be black.
Oh, and it was. Just wait.
I met my best friend Sandy where the smokers hung out, so I threw my badass on and moseyed over to the sidewalk across the street where we smokers got our 10 minutes of nicotine meditation on.
Christie said she was 5’ tall, but she was lying. She was 90 pounds kitty cat wet, but she rode horses so she was all muscle. She could jump horseback hurdles without the fucking horse.
And she was Goth. Openly. At school. She didn’t give a fuck.
The second I met her, I knew she was trouble. It’s what drew her to me and eventually tore us apart.
I watched her flail around as she excitedly talked to a small group about the probability of aliens. And the probability that they had probed her anus. And she was literally bouncing.
She bounded up to me and did one of the best Bill the Cat impressions I’ve seen TO DATE.
How did she know about my obsession with Bloom County? That I had all the books and read them over and over?
My drawings of Bill were as good as her impersonation. I drew Bill the Cat on everything including the notebook I was… holding.
In hindsight, it was quite fitting that the mutual love of a derelict drug addict cat was our bond.
She grabbed me by my notebook and spun me around with great force.
“Cut with me. I have cloves.”
She had me at “with me.”
We walked two miles to the cemetery. It was obvious we were cutting for the rest of the day. Christie sang some song about dead poets the whole way and I realized that I was going to have to bone up on my literature to become Goth.
Christie took me to an unlocked tomb and we crawled inside. It was empty. The sun streaming in through stained glass made it feel like a tiny church. A sense of calm pervaded my senses. When my family lived in Mexico, I used to hide from my abusive father in church. It was the only other time I felt that all over body peace without using drugs and alcohol.
We sat on the stoop and Christie handed me a clove cigarette.*
“Hold the clove between your fingers and then make a circle with that hand and cup it with your other hand. No take a huge hit and hold it as long as you can.
I’d been smoking pot long enough to come off overqualified.
The promise of distorted reality was always a carrot I would chase, even if it meant possible death.
I exhaled and I had a sweet buzz on. The cloves tasted like strawberry. It was a perfect cemetery day.
Signature Christie, right in the middle of my buzz, picked me up and spun me around and around and around. Like a record, baby.
The only predictable thing about this girl was that she was completely unpredictable. And hyper as shit.
“Now lay down, take a power hit and listen to this.”
I lay where Mary Buford made her final resting place. I imagined her 6-feet under me in a coffin. Decaying. I felt so Goth.
I was beginning to feel like a slave to her whims. But of course I would do what she said rather than face the consequences of standing up for myself. This girl was my only touchstone to the world I wanted so badly to belong to. I was no victim in this scenario; I was definitely a volunteer.
The only other person I knew in the scene was Ethan, but he made me want to puke and he wasn’t even Goth.
She put her headphones over my ears. I took the hit. She pressed play on the Walkman. It was My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult – I’d never heard them. The song was A Daisy Chain 4 Satan. Right when the song started, I was floating. I was in the music. I was the music. I felt that peace wash over me again, but this time it stayed.
I knew this was going to save me. I was going to reinvent myself. I was going to be untouchable. No one would break my heart again. No one would know about my deep shame of losing the Brie Lesbian Attempt.
I tried vulnerability. It didn’t fucking work. I suddenly understood why punkers wore those thick leather jackets. I was in need of a shell.
I felt breath on my face.
I batted my spider legs open. Christie was an inch away from my face studying me as if I was her very own science experiment.
“Stay over at my house Friday night. We’ll go to Club Underground and do some fry.”
I felt like Charlie getting the golden ticket to Goth. I had no idea what fry was, but if it was half as good as cloves, I was in.
*Clove cigarettes were illegal in Nevada, but Reno is only a 45-minute drive from the state line. It wasn’t as rad as having weed, but it still meant you drove or kicked it with people who drove, which made you badass.