A Peak Into My Anxious Brain

Disclaimer- I am not a medical professional or really a professional in anything related to the topic I’m about to speak extensively about. But that’s why this is a blog and not a scientific journal.  I am a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Many of you already know that, for those who don’t: welcome to a new side of me that you may or may not care to know.

One of the hardest parts of being an anxious person is that you feel incredibly isolated. I’ve talked about this before, but generalized anxiety feels so personal that you (I just dropped a Cheerio on the ground, I can’t find it and it’s going to ruin my night) can’t even explain it to someone. You know that other people suffer from Anxiety but you know that their symptoms manifest differently, their coping mechanisms are different, their triggers are different.

I understand that many people “try” to understand but a lot of people do a poor job of it. I’m not asking to you do research on the disorder, but I’m asking you to listen to me when I try my hardest to explain to you what it feels like. I hope that my elaboration can help you with someone in your life who may be suffering similarly. First and foremost, though, I want to put a stop to some of the misconceptions surrounding Anxiety.

 

1.) Generalized anxiety is not the same thing as feeling nervous

 

A lot of people falsely assume that having anxiety is similar to stage fright or the feeling you get when you go on a first date. It’s not. When my anxiety first started in 2nd grade it felt like constant terror. Terror that kept me awake at night, terror that had me bawling in the middle of a theater during the movie “Dinosaur,”  terror that sent me home from basketball camp in an ambulance. It completely consumes you when it is at its worst.

With Generalized Anxiety Disorder, your baseline is stage fright on a good day. You wake up and it’s sitting on your pillow patiently waiting for your consciousness, leaping down your throat with a list of things to ruminate on. If you’re really unlucky you’ve already spent the entire night in anxiety ridden dreams which are so stressful you don’t even feel like you slept.

Yes, the average person experiences some anxiety. But the person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder experiences intense anxiety that is pervasive and, at times, debilitating.

The same concept applies here as it does with OCD. People will use the term Anxiety colloquially and not understand the repercussions. When you claim to “be so OCD” or claim to have “hardcore anxiety” offhand you are invalidating the experiences of those who have crippling mental health issues. Whether you intend on it or not, you are making our fight even harder.

 

2.) Anxiety is not something you can just “stop” feeling

It’s more of a symptom that you can manage. You can take action to help your anxiety, do things that give you brief respite… But you can’t just tell your brain to stop feeling anxious. Because guess what? My brain is a floating sack of chemicals and neural connections that are beyond comprehension. My brain is already self-aware enough to know that it’s fucked up- if it had any intention of changing I think it would have done so by now. Asshole.

That’s probably the thing that pisses me off most, when people tell me to “Stop thinking so much.”

Why. In. The. Fuck. Would. I. Choose. This? Please enlighten me.

If I could stop thinking so much I would just never feel anxious. My anxiety sets the pace; I don’t get to decide whether or not I overthink things.

Drugs help. Whether it be prescription medication, weed, alcohol. I know I turned to alcohol quite frequently. But nothing makes it “stop.” I don’t have the option of taking a long drink of water, staring at myself in the mirror, slapping myself across the face and yelling “get it together.” Isn’t that what normal people do? Or is that just in the movies?

 

3.) Speaking of drugs.

A lot of people use anxiety as an excuse to get Xanax or other Benzodiazepines for recreational purposes. They also use it as an excuse to get weed for recreational purposes. Unfortunately that lends itself to Anxiety being considered a “fake” medical problem in a lot of people’s mind.

I am one of the unlucky people who had symptoms of Anxiety manifest into physical symptoms. I decided to quit my medication from 2012 to 2014 because I thought I was “cured” but it turned out that my body couldn’t properly digest food without the medication. Once I cut out my medication “cold turkey” I started to show physical symptoms for Crohn’s Disease.

I spent a lot of time in doctors offices with invasive tests that led only to a bunch of expensive doctors telling me “It looks like Crohn’s, it behaves like Crohn’s, but the blood test is negative for Crohn’s… So I’m not sure, good luck!”

30 pounds lost and 2 years of discomfort and agony later- turns out my anxiety medication completely erased the symptoms. I tried to be strong enough to live without my medication because society makes me feel weak for needing it. Turns out I am weak without it.

 

4.) The hardest part

Making sense of it. You feel like there should be a reason for feeling anxious so you assign meaning to it. Rather than sitting here at my computer feeling like there are rocks rolling around in my stomach for no reason- I’ll assign these feelings of distress to things in my life. You get a little “chicken or the egg” situation here because you’re not sure if the stressful life situations cause the anxiety or if the anxiety would have been just as intense either way. But without a doubt- the chicken and the egg definitely enable each other.

My instinct is usually to avoid this feeling- because it fucking sucks. But right now I figured I would lean into it for the purpose of this post. I’ve thought to myself dozens of times today “Why can’t I just feel normal?” But I realize there is no normal and everyone feels differently and I’m just a particularly emotional being. Sure- I want to feel lucky for being uniquely me, but I also hate me for making me feel like an absolute trainwreck when there is objectively nothing to feel like a trainwreck about.

 

5.) So really- what does it feel like?

As I mentioned earlier, the first time I felt anxiety it felt like terror. It felt like my parents dying in a horrific car accident, my brother dying from an incurable infection, the world coming to an end and my house being torn up by a tornado. It felt like creatures floating around my room while I laid sweating in paralysis desperately grabbing onto my cat for a portal into reality. It felt like a loud ringing in my ear before I fell asleep was going to ruin me.

As I grew up it felt like motivation, it felt like the reason I was good at things. It felt like the constant reach towards perfection. It felt like my heart stopping moments before the gun exploded at the starting line. It felt like the reason I was never happy with myself because there was always something I could be doing better. It felt like never being content with what I had and always expecting more of myself- being disappointed whenever I fell short and still being disappointed by something I’d find wrong with my success.

Now it feels like something I can laugh about on some days and something that makes me want to die on other days. It feels like every person who has ever hurt me. It feels like that person who lives to watch you fail. It feels like someone hiding around the corner laying in wait to attack. It feels like the task I can put off for weeks and weeks until it becomes so necessary I can’t ignore it. It feels like rejection and failure- it feels like anger. It feels like frustration so intense and debilitating that you collapse inside.

It doesn’t feel like forever though.

 

Anger

This has been a confusing year. I struggle to write, I’m afraid of what will come out. I am angry. Very angry. I try to push aside the reasons why I’m angry, but some days they hit me all at once while I’m taking a shower and of course that’s fucking useless. It’s hard to get myself to sit down and let this all out because it’s not a pleasant feeling. Sitting here, at my computer slamming on the keys so loudly I might wake Kaker up from a sound sleep. But here we are, so let’s see if I have the balls to post this.

I went to a great school for writing. I don’t think going to Boston University necessarily made me a better writer. I think I learned useful tools and I became a lot more savvy in formatting and ‘tricks of the trade.’ I learned how to create a polished script. I met people who will probably be successful someday because they went to Boston University. But no, my education did not make me a better writer and I’m not sure if that’s even what I was expecting in the first place.

I was (do people still use italics in this way?) expecting help in my career. WHY ELSE DO YOU GO TO COLLEGE OTHER THAN FOR HELP IN YOUR CAREER? PLEASE ANSWER ME THAT QUESTION WITH ANYTHING LOGICAL OTHER THAN TO RAGE YOUR FACE OFF.

The main reason why I ultimately chose Boston University was because of the LA Internship program. In a sick and twisted turn of events I can honestly say that internship program was one of the most hellish experiences of my entire life. That’s not entirely BU’s fault, it was a combination of things (eating disorder, long distance relationship, being broke as shit, eating disorder.) Let’s talk more about BU for a second though.

Boston University sells you on the idea that they will hook you up with your first internship. They will give you the proverbial “foot in the door.” They sell you on the 500+ LinkedIn connections the internship program coordinator has developed across the industry. What they don’t tell you is that at the end of the day your internship quality depends entirely on the bias of that program coordinator (and that she is insufferable and unhelpful.)

I told her my interests (horror films, death, and violence) and she gave me the names of 3 people who I had to reach out to personally and set interviews up with. I guess you pay for this ludicrously expensive program on the hopes that she hooks you up with a solid email address? I didn’t get anyone solid. The one interview I set up from her ~contacts~ sent me to a small apartment in mid-city with three middle-aged men and a small yappy blind dog named Tiberius. They called themselves a production company, I call them four weirdos who were too delusional to get a real job. The only upward mobility at that place was into one of their beds as their night time companion. I don’t even mean that in a sexual way, I mean in the “let’s stare at the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling and talk about hypothetical philosophical scenarios” way.  

For the BULA program I had to “take initiative” (entertainment folk are big on taking initiative which really means doing someone else’s job for them) and go find my own internship. I found mine by browsing Entertainment Careers (the equivalent of entertainment Craigslist.) The only reason I chose to intern on The Jeff Probst Show was because they hired off the phone and it was with CBS distribution and at least I’d heard of CBS before. Everyone had, Jesus.

I don’t really want to talk about either of my internships other than to say they were utterly useless and demoralizing. (Has the highlight of your day ever been walking onto the empty set of Judge Judy to avoid being yelled at by an angry cab driver you refused to give your cell phone number to?) My night classes with Boston University were no better… At one point my “professor” (a washed up entertainment lawyer) gave us a breakdown of how much money we should expect to make our first year out of college and how far that income would take us in LA. He literally drew out a pie chart of all of our expenses. This wonderful chart showed us that we would barely make enough to live on. And that was IF ANY ONLY IF we were lucky enough to get our dream job as a Production Assistant. For reference, the average PA makes $15 per hour which is roughly $30,000 per year. For more reference, the cheaper end of rent in a safe part of Los Angeles is $1,000 per month… Meaning over a third of your income is devoted solely to making sure you’re not homeless. Again, that’s if you are #blessed with such a sacred opportunity.

Fuck. At the time I thought this was all worth it because I loved writing so much and it was the only thing I REALLY knew how to do. Since I was a little girl (who looked like a boy) writing stories of my cat taking a dump so large his litterbox couldn’t contain it. Since my second grade teacher praised my mediocre story about a penguin following a trail of pizzas to a cave of jewels. Since my sixth grade teacher gave me my only A+ ever and told me that he wanted a signed copy of my book when I was a famous writer someday. Failure wasn’t an option because so many people expected me to succeed. Failure was never an option.

Until it was. I felt myself failing, I felt myself accepting that I was failing. Since I officially gave up on writing as my career I have not shared a single new piece of writing with anyone. That was on June 1st of 2017. Since that day I’ve tried to reconcile who the fuck I really am behind all of this anger and pain.

Can I still be a writer even though this town has essentially told me, no? Do I even like to write anymore? Am I even a good writer? Was I ever a good writer? Am I just a simple white girl from Minnesota with made up problems and excessive angst?

The only thing I knew for sure this year was that I am an athlete. I could not prove anything else. I embraced the one part of my identity that was clear and obvious to me. I slowly chipped away at the parts of myself that detracted from being an athlete. I quit drinking, I ran screaming from all things entertainment, and I embraced those who accepted this new version of myself. The brooding and pseudo-artistic part of me took a backseat, only escaping for brief moments of “what the fuck?” My frustration turned slowly but surely into unbridled anger. All negative emotions were recycled into a giant heaping blob of Anger.

Kaker lovingly calls me an angry bitch. My male teammates tell me I play best when I’m angry. My coaches are begging me to channel my anger. You’d think at this point I would constantly be foaming at the mouth. Unfortunately I am a complicated woman and my brain often does the opposite of what I’d like it to do. But I’m sick of suffering from my own mentality. I’m sick of being victim of my own insecurity.

I’m sure as hell done being a victim of other people’s insecurities.

I have nothing to lose anymore. I’ll never be someone’s assistant again. I’ll never serve as another woman’s emotional punching bag. I’ll never be that resume that someone looks at and thinks “I’ll hire this girl because at least I know she won’t quit after putting up with my bullshit.” I’ll never comprehend why any of those women thought it was ok to treat another human being the way they treated me and every assistant they had before or after me. You call yourselves feminists but I call you imposters.

I wake up on Saturday morning for my tackle football practice and I think of these women. I think of the 10 dollars per hour I killed myself over, I think of the walls of iMessage I would receive at 2:00 am on a Saturday, I think of the lies and deception I witnessed firsthand but stayed silent for. I feel myself growing angrier and angrier.

When I line up across from a girl in a tackling drill, I think about my first boss in Los Angeles. The one who started it all. I visualize her name, I repeat it over and over again in my head. I can feel it stuck to my tongue like spoiled milk. I think of how many times I had to clean up pee soaked potty pads from the floor of her apartment, how many plates of disgusting microwaved dog food I had to concoct and make palatable for two dogs with a higher net worth than me, how many useless tasks I was assigned on half-baked ideas that would never amount to anything. It’s hard not to want to beat the shit out of someone.

The problem with my anger is that sometimes it gets stuck and forms into a funnel cloud in my brain. That funnel cloud grows more and more ominous each time I fuck up. After enough frustration and failure I’ve got a full on tornado swirling around in my brain. The tornado that screams

“What’s wrong with you?”

“Why are you so stupid?”

“Why can’t you figure this out?”

“What the fuck is your problem?”

The easiest person to be angry with is yourself. I find myself randomly frustrated that I chose to go to school for film, I find myself randomly frustrated that I drank myself stupid most weekends since I got to college, I find myself randomly frustrated that I allowed employers to treat me the way they did for so many years. What do I do with this anger? How do I move past my own transgressions when the laundry list seems to grow by the day? How the fuck do I turn around the goddamn funnel cloud?

If you are similarly struggling with these questions, I encourage you to stop living in the past. Stop fixating on the things you did wrong and focus on the things you’ve done right. Realize now that you are on the top of a mountain, you are looking over the destruction. It’s easy to get stuck in the chaos and never pull yourself out, but you have done that. Being angry at your former self does not help your future self. Anger is not the opposite of happiness, but you still cannot let the anger consume you.

I have a hard time admitting that I’m proud of myself because I still feel like I haven’t done enough. I don’t feel like I can truly be proud until I have accomplished the things I set out to accomplish. I am happy that I am moving in the right direction but I’m not done. I’m not ready to sit back and accept this. I have grown stronger from the bullshit of the last 5 years, even the self inflicted bullshit. All of the bullshit was worth it to feel like I have purpose and a future.

Writing this didn’t feel great, but it’s a start. My instinct is to make sure this never sees the light of day, but who knows. Maybe someone else can benefit from reading this, or maybe someone who was wondering how I am doing behind the social media facade will feel enlightened. If you didn’t feel like reading every word- the summary here is:

  • I’m angry
  • I’m going to write again
  • I’m scared

 

My Dream Wedding

There’s really nothing scarier in life than revealing your innermost desires for your “Big Day.” Sure, I could share you a Pinterest Board of everything I want, but what fun would that be? I am going to spell it out to you- from the horse’s mouth… I might even make some horse noises if you’re lucky. So for any eligible suitors out there reading this post, if you want to marry me, here is what I expect in my ideal wedding.

The Ring: Needs to be from a vending machine at Taco Bell. I will not accept anything less, the Taco Bell part is important. I grew up waiting for meat tacos at Taco Bell and if I was LUCKY my mom would give me a quarter to buy a ring from the vending machine. The design of the ring doesn’t matter so much- but I will know if it’s authentic. Do not test me.

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The Venue: A VFW in rural Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska… Somewhere where we can be as far as possible from civilization. Alternatively, I want it to be a dirty ramshackle barn, crucial that it’s not a ‘rustic’ barn… A real one with fresh manure and livestock milling around. Goats screaming like Usher, pigs rolling in their own feces, chickens freaking the fuck out over nothing… Guests will sit on rusty and breaking folding chairs, hay bales if we can find enough in the storage shed. No need for an alter or anything, we can just borrow a podium from the local high school’s speech team.

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(***person in this picture is also invited)

Service: There will be no service. We will skip right to the part where we ask if anyone objects, I have a feeling someone will object. Whether it be my 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Bale, or a scorned lover from a fling in Vegas, someone will disapprove. (Yes both of those people will be on the guest list.) We will start the discussion segment there and have a civil discourse about my life choices. Ultimately my father, Alex Nicholson, will decide whether or not we can proceed with the union. He will signal this by lighting a torch.

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Ring Bearer: Will be an untrained pig.

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Dress: I will find my mother’s wedding dress from storage (without her permission.) It is shrinkwrapped at the moment. I will unwrap it the day of the wedding and wear it as is. NO alterations. If my mother wore it I will wear it. If something rips then we can use clothespins and bedsheets.

Flowers: I’m cool with sending someone’s child into a field for some dandelions, dead dandelions, or just wildgrasses of whatever state we decide to have this in. Maybe we can scatter the feed of the livestock around so we might have a guest appearance from a cow, pig, goat, rats… Maybe we even open up the chicken coop and let them flood in. Idk, just spitballing here.

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Catering: Sloppy joes, walking tacos and deer meat. Those are the staples. If you are a vegetarian you can just eat the Doritos and lettuce from the walking tacos. We will also have a cookie table. The table will be full of just cookies, I repeat, cookies only. We will buy them from the local grocery chain and put them on a plastic plate. Yes, this does include every possible flavor of those frosted sugar cookies with the sprinkles on them. Yes the powdery ones that break apart all over you as you eat them. Yes, we will EVEN have the different holiday variations… Don’t ask me how we will get all of them but we will. Everyone will really love the cookie table. If I’m feeling spendy, I’ll potentially have Raising Cane’s cater. But if that’s the case I’d feel bad letting the chickens out of their coop.

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Cake: Would be great if someone whips up a Funfetti day of. I just want to be clear that the topper has both me and my husband on a tractor. I don’t know how to drive a tractor but so help me God I better be on a fucking tractor for my wedding cake topper.

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Photography: I am going to blow my entire budget on finding the actor who plays the photographer in 13 Reasons Why. I want him to be in character for the entire wedding. I don’t care how much it costs, he needs to be at my wedding. And everyone gets an autographed, shirtless, headshot of him.

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The Reception: We will have the reception under a white tent near a swamp. The swamp is crucial to the success of the reception. I need there to be insects, I love bugs. I want people to be swatting at them while they eat, perhaps there will even be dead insects in the sloppy joes. Idk, we can only ask for so much. Karaoke machine with only cassette tapes, 90% of the cassette tapes are nursery rhymes. Microphone will have a MASSIVE foam mouthpiece for comedic purposes only but also so that everyone has to feel the person before them’s spit.

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The DJ: I am going to wait outside a high school and see which dude rolls in with his music blaring the loudest. He will be my DJ, he is the most confident in his taste in music. Must play the Chicken Dance and Born In The USA.

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Alcohol: Open bar. Only beverage is bottom-shelf vodka and the only thing to mix it with is Koolaid. Don’t worry, we will mix the Koolaid ahead of time and might even offer a few different flavors, but probably you can expect mostly red and blue because that’s what I like best and this is my wedding.

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Bartender: He is a failed comedian who I found in Boise. I gave him free reign to use the bar as his stage, so you have to all listen to his jokes for the entire night. That’s the price you pay for free alcohol. Your laughter are his form of tips- he understands this agreement.

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Honeymoon: Wisconsin Dells. We are going to stay in a suite at the Wilderness Lodge and we are going to play in the waterpark all day every day. Sex takes a backseat to playing in the wave pool drunk. You will take me go karting at Mt. Olympus and we will dangle the fact that we have our driver’s license over the heads of our child/teen/preteen competitors. We will not let them win. I will get cotton candy. We will probably go to Noah’s Ark and I will call you a pussy for not wanting to ride the slide that some kid died on years ago. Then I will wait in line for it, get to the top, and chicken out but make a bunch of excuses about how I heard it making weird noises and how I totally cheated death.

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I Was Buried Under a Pile of Monkeys

I don’t think it’s normal to learn a lesson from your dreams, and I’m not even sure that I did learn a lesson. My dreams are startlingly realistic, most of the time they cling to me far past sleepytime and I momentarily forget whether I’m in dream world or reality. My life is like a melodramatic remake of Inception where the main character, Katrina, an oblivious white girl, works at an ad agency in Los Angeles and compulsively chugs tea out of an enormous Iowa mug her mother accidentally sent her.

Sometimes I can control my actions in my dreams AKA “lucid dreaming.” These dreams are the most memorable because they genuinely feel like a second life. There are certain things that exist in my “dream life” that don’t exist in my actual life. For example, my childhood home always has a pool in the backyard in my dream life but not in reality. This has been the case since high school, so it kind of felt like waking up and realizing you didn’t actually get that golden retriever puppy in real life. Every, day.

By the way, for anyone who thinks this sound “cool” I would gladly trade you this ability for ANY one of your marketable skills… Like the ability to do math for example. Or maybe ability to write code. Programming. Anything of that nature.

ANYWAY. For this dream, I was in Africa with a few friends (no I’ve never actually been to Africa) and we decided to go rogue on a safari. Dream Katrina is constantly putting herself in vulnerable situations with wild animals, not sure if that means anything, but she sure likes to do it. For the safari we were walking through a desert savannah and kept spotting monkeys in the distance. They disguised themselves as trees before attacking their prey… It was as acid trippy as it sounds, yes. Picture Kirby’s World for NES in that level where the birds all shoot out of the tree when you pass it (if you get that reference please notify me, ASAP, I’d like to make you my husband.) There were also alligators, rhinos, plenty of shit that can kill you. But we were prancing carelessly around like we were in a fucking Minnesota cornfield.

My friends rushed ahead of me and out of sight. In real life this wouldn’t be a huge issue because I’m fast as all fuck, but in this dream I might as well have been 95 years old with metal knees. While I fruitlessly rushed onward, I accidentally stumbled under what looked like a harmless tree, but was actually an aggressive nest of monkeys. This troop of monkeys leapt onto my back and paused for a moment while I pretended to be dead. They chattered amongst themselves, probably deciding how to best feast on my innards. What the fuck else could the monkeys of my subconscious possibly have to say? 

Unfortunately this was a very heavy pile of monkeys, and I needed to breathe, so they quickly figured out the truth as they felt the rise and fall of my ribcage underneath them. I braced myself for contact, which is a horrifying prospect if you’ve ever seen anyone who survived a monkey attack. Monkeys rip faces off.

For reference, this is sort of what the monkeys looked like:

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Before you make fun of the size of this monkey, let’s discuss a few things.

  • Look at its fucking teeth
  • Look how angry he looks
  • Imagine at least 12 of him on your back (you’re completely alone)
  • He is a wild animal, so the fact that his mouth is about the size of a cat isn’t relevant because this motherfucker will tear into you barehanded with reckless abandon on INSTINCT
  • He is defending his nest

Anyway. I’m deflecting because I’m trying not to be too morbid. This entire post is a little off, sorry mom, these are the things that keep me up at night (or not? these are the things that haunt me while I sleep?) 

The moment underneath those monkeys felt so real that I genuinely thought I was going to die. I felt those near-death thoughts flying through my head. How disappointed my parents, friends, family would be that I died in such a reckless way. I thought about how my last moments on earth would be wasted by my own ignorance and overzealousness. I would be just another white girl who thought she was invulnerable and could run around unknown territory without any repercussions. Just like when I used to walk home alone from Allston back in college at 2:00 am and get into strange cabs who offered free rides.

Most of all, I thought about how this was the real, black, immanent, void. The end.

I came to that lonely realization that I imagine most Atheists have in the back of their mind (but are too busy playing World of Warcraft and blaming ~society~ for their problems to admit.) When you reject religion or a higher power as a concept, you reject the belief in an afterlife. You truly believe that when you die, you just rot in the ground and that’s it. Maybe people scatter your ashes or whatever, but you cease to exist in any way shape or form. Bleak. As. FUCK. (I’m really fun at parties.)

When I was younger and a “practicing Lutheran” I had these types of dreams, I’d get to my Monkey Pile Moment and I’d pray. I’d pray that God would save me or that somehow this wouldn’t be the end, and many times when I did this I’d be rescued or brought to some other reality within the dream. But now, at 25, I feel that crushing defeat of ultimately losing faith. I don’t believe anymore, I genuinely don’t, and having that vividly illuminated in a dream is startling. 

On the optimistic side, I realize the importance of self reliance. Being able to find solutions for yourself and work your way through The Monkey Piles Of Life (I hate myself for just saying that… I feel like I just wrote a fucking sermon which is some pretty tasty irony for you literary fiends out there who might be picking apart my work trying to decide if there is any deeper meaning! There’s not, and I’m sure that’s not what you’re doing here.)

Let me try again without getting all preachy. I woke up from this dream covered in sweat, with a very sore throat from some sleep-apnea-esque snoring (I’M SORRY, I’M ACTIVELY WORKING ON IT OK?) and I felt myself actually relax a bit. Whatever the hell gets thrown my way, whether it be an entire tree full of monkeys, a knee injury (please no), or a career change… I’m gonna make it work. I’ll be ok. 

Your story is not already written for you. If you’re an Atheist or even just someone who is questioning faith, spirituality, etc… If you’re feeling like you have nothing to fall back on… You do. But either fortunately or unfortunately, that thing is you. As I’ve said many times before, if you don’t like your life, it’s time to grab it by the haunches and hump it into submission. Because you can, no one else can.

Genuinely beautiful song about loving yourself even though everyone else might think you’re a lunatic ❤ (and they might be RIGHT)

Go Ahead, Blacklist Me.

For a while I was really afraid to post stories about working in TV because I was concerned that I’d “blacklist” myself if I pissed off the wrong person. While that might be true, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t care anymore and some stories are meant to be told. This one isn’t even that bad, considering this woman made my life a living hell for about a year.

My first year working in Los Angeles as an “Executive Coordinator” entailed a lot more personal work than I expected. And very little Executive Coordinating. I was a glorified Personal Assistant at best- I didn’t make enough money to live on because my rate was laughably low (I believe it’s the current minimum wage, which is under scrutiny) and I was restricted to “40 hours per week” even though this still required me to promptly answer text messages, calls, and emails 24/7. And if you’re asking why I didn’t claim those hours, it’s because my boss extensively reviewed my work hours every week and occasionally argued me down if she thought the number was too high. Did the same thing for my gas mileage tracker, which I never lied on but was still accused of tracking my commute miles.

I genuinely believed this job would fast-track me on to becoming a television writer’s assistant. I was one of the many aspirational 21 year olds who believed the false promises made to them by unhappy people at the top who resent them for “being the future of the industry.” I trusted this person who claimed to see potential in me, I invested myself fully in this job even though it made me miserable and wasn’t remotely close to what I wanted to be doing with my life.

This silly story sticks out in my mind, just to give you an idea of how out of touch I was with reality. And maybe it will make you realize how out of touch with reality you are too. Because if you don’t see anything wrong with it, something is off.

My boss asked me to watch her two dogs on a Sunday in Beverly Hills while she went out and had fun with her friends. My ex-boyfriend and I decided we’d make a morning of it and go out for breakfast at Hugo’s in West Hollywood. Granted- I probably spent all of the money I earned in that day on my meal at Hugo’s… Not because Hugo’s is expensive but because that’s truly how little money I made. (Can I also note that I had no health insurance, PTO, government holidays, literally zero benefits other than the occasional free lunch that I had to pick up for myself and all others in the office in the heart of Beverly Hills where parking is basically a hazing ritual for the new folk?)

Anyway, at Hugo’s I ordered this intriguing frittata called the “Go Green Frittata” it was a massive GREEN egg bake with quinoa, kale, and other various green ruffagey shit. This was back when I was desperately trying to be skinny by eating nothing and prancing on ellipticals a few times per week. The thing was gargantuan and tasted mostly revolting but I ate it all. Would highly recommend that no one ever allow themselves to eat anything bright green for breakfast. You’re asking for a weird day. 

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(this is an actual image of the frittata at Hugo’s)

I was nursing a bit of a hangover because what else do you do when you’re 21, new to Los Angeles and your boyfriend is pretty much the only friend you have? You get hammered and lament your life choices. You also starve yourself slightly so that it takes less alcohol to get drunk and you can save money. On this particular morning I had the kind of hangover that came in waves of brief, sweaty, panicked, nausea. The kind I now can cure with my bff edible marijuana and an alarmingly long nap. 

We went back to take care of the dogs and watch a little NFL. Boyfriend had to be at work later that afternoon so I would drive him and then come back to the house. I felt my stomach get that cute little nauseousness so I spent the majority of the morning napping while he gave me emphatic highlights from the games we cared about.

When it came time to drive him to work, I was fully ill. At this time I was dealing with severe digestive problems and had no way of predicting how my body would react to unfamiliar foods. Almost every meal gave me trouble- but not this kind of trouble. Not Go Green Frittata trouble. I was sweating and could barely speak as we drove the 5 minutes to his office. He was concerned, because anyone who knows me knows that it’s an issue if I go 5 minutes without speaking. I pretended to be fine even though I could feel that unmistakable lump forming in the back of my throat, the one that firms up the esophagus in preparation for a boot and rally. 

Once I dropped him off, I genuinely worried I wouldn’t make it back to her house without barfing all over the interior of his new Ford Fusion. 

As I was rounding the corner onto my boss’s street, desperately gasping for air and blasting cold air conditioning breeze on my sweaty face, my cell phone rang and it was the boss.

I answered the line knowing I’d be in trouble (and she’d just keep calling) if I didn’t, and she immediately started barking demands at me. My stomach gave a violent churn as I hung up on her and made a drastic swerve to the side of the road in this bougie Beverly Hills neighborhood. I ran to the sidewalk, fell to my knees, and proceeded to vomit a massive green mound of quinoa, veggies, eggs and shreds of pancake. I’ve never thrown up so much in one sitting in my entire life. I can almost guarantee you a curious dog or a lucky raccoon made lunch out of it later that day.

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(Another gentle reminder of what the frittata looked like to begin with)

I stared into the vomit for a minute and realized that this was probably going to be very representative of my time in Los Angeles. Laugh at me if you want- but this was a profound moment. Here I was… Amidst million dollar homes in one of the world’s most famous neighborhoods, finally “pursuing my lifelong dream”, but actually just staring into a pile of my own bright green vomit. Hollywood, where (if you REALLY want it bad enough) your dreams come true… Right???

I got back in the car fully knowing my stomach was not emptied and the storm hadn’t cleared. But that didn’t matter- I had hung up on her.

“I’m so sorry- I had to pull over the car and throw up. What did you need?” I asked

“You actually threw up? Wow, good thing you weren’t driving my car.” She said, then quickly moved on as if I’d told her that I just sneezed on the steering wheel while driving. As if it wasn’t Sunday and I wasn’t spending my “free time” trapped in the apartment that had come to feel more like a prison than an “office.”

It was this moment where I realized that as much as MY life revolved around HER, I ceased to exist in her mind when I wasn’t doing something for her. I wasn’t a human to her. I was means to an end, something she could take advantage of with no remorse. There was no part of her that considered coming home early to relieve me of dog sitting so that I could go home and rest. There was no part of her that felt guilty that I spent the remainder of the day vomiting violently (and surprisingly painfully) into her various toilets while my boyfriend helplessly texted me from his office.

Tell me that this is what it takes to be successful in Los Angeles. Tell me that you have to “work in the trenches” before you can ever EARN the opportunity to do what you love. Tell me that I deserved to be emotionally abused and manipulated for a year, which amounted to approximately nothing other than teaching me never to trust what someone promises you. Tell me that I deserved to feel like I was never good enough and that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life by moving out here.

You can tell me any of that, I don’t agree with you. I don’t think I ever should have been treated that way and I don’t think ANYONE deserves to be treated that way. Yet this is just one tiny story in a catalogue of experiences I’ve had over the last four-plus years out here. And I’m just one person. There are hundreds of you out there still accepting this treatment because you believe some day you’ll get the chance to do what you love.

Consider if it’s really worth it. Consider the long term implications of this mentality. I wish I had stood up for myself sooner. I wish I had realized that no matter how shitty someone treated me that didn’t affect my personal worth. I’m still a writer, I’ll always be a writer, and no one can tell me otherwise. Please, if you’re going through anything similar, remind yourself that you’re worth more.

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(And for the love of all that is good in this world, please do yourself a favor and NEVER order this food item)

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Not a relevant image but it makes me giggle.

Insecurity Manifesto

On February 9th I remember feeling particularly horrible. It was one of those days where I didn’t necessarily know why I was so upset, but everything seemed to set me off. The biggest emotion I experienced was intense insecurity, just being incredibly unsatisfied with myself. I felt alone, afraid, and beaten down.

In the New Year I’ve tried to make it a priority to escape from these lows by finding strength within myself. I haven’t been great about that, I rely a lot on other people to help me out. It’s ok to depend on other people, but it’s essential to have a sense of stable security from within. On February 9th, I wrote up a “manifesto” of sorts to remind me of the things I wanted to change that were causing me to feel insecure.

I never planned on sharing this, but I’m feeling confident today. Very confident. I have worked on maybe 4 or 5 of the bullets on this list and I already notice progression in myself. While maybe this is a cheesy Seventeen-esque list, I figure if I can get some value out of it maybe someone else can too.

I have made progress with some of this, but there are several things on the list that I blatantly disregard on a daily basis. Change comes slowly but surely, and I’m optimistic. Oh did I really just say that? I feel optimistic? What a breath of fresh air!

Take a look at my list, and decide for yourself. You can follow mine, or you can make one for yourself. You don’t need to tell anyone, you don’t need to make any promises, just refer back to it once in a while to remind yourself what matters. Remind yourself what gets you to that negative place, put those reasons on your list and attack them.

Let’s fuck shit up, I say!

My Personal Insecurity Manifesto

  • I vow to communicate clearly and express my needs without fear
  • I vow to not invest time worrying about what people mean, but rather will listen to what they say
  • I vow to demand respect from a partner, sexual and romantic alike
  • I vow not to let the way a man treats me define how I go about my day and feel about myself
  • I vow to value myself and celebrate my strengths
  • I vow to stop calling myself an idiot when I make a mistake
  • I vow to stop apologizing when I’ve done nothing wrong
  • I vow to start taking the advice I would give to a best friend in my same situation
  • I vow to stop making exceptions for behavior that bothers me
  • I vow to stop placing my personal worth in the way others view me
  • I vow to stick to my priorities and quit shifting them to accommodate other people
  • I vow to recognize when I’m spreading myself too thin and make an effort to lighten the load in any way possible.
  • I vow to stop projecting my insecurities into my interactions with other people
  • I vow to acknowledge when I’m feeling lonely and learn to be okay with feeling that way
  • I vow to enjoy myself and be fully present when I’m with friends, not letting my mind drift to negative places
  • I vow to stop being so hard on myself when things don’t go the way I want them to
  • I vow to use my mistakes as learning experiences, rather than replaying them in my head over and over.
  • I vow to actually take action on my insecurity rather than pushing it aside
  • I vow to stop giving in to my vices to numb the pain I’m feeling
  • I vow to be patient when I slip up
  • I vow to make my self confidence a priority in my life

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My 90 Year Old Grandpa Runs a Greenhouse and I Can’t Even Write a Damn Blog Post?

After almost a month of radio silence on here, I didn’t think my first returning post would be about my grandpa’s horticulture habits but… Here we are. It’s the only thing I could get excited about on this Friday afternoon. I know it’s St. Patrick’s Day but can I just admit that I don’t give a shit? I’m not even a little bit Irish and frankly my European genes resent this holiday on principle.

Let me give you the scoop- I thought it was a thing for EVERYONE’S Grandpa to have a massive garden full of vegetables in their backyard. I thought that was just what grandpas did… Pop Pop had his… and my Opa had a massive swampland surrounding a ramshackle barn filled with uncategorizable paraphernalia, there had to be a garden in there somewhere right? The obligatory grandpa garden?

Pop Pop lives in Wisconsin in a podunk village called Greenville. The most exciting things happening in this village are A.) Anything pertaining to the Green Bay Packers B.) The massive Costco a couple miles down the road and C.) Tractor style lawnmowers (both in practice and as a concept.) Wisconsin is booger-icicle cold for 75% of the year and for the other 25% (I really had to think about those percentages… Math is hard for me) so humid that your tears of anguish mix with with your sweat and blood to form an unrecognizable fluid that even renowned doctors don’t have a word for.

In case you haven’t gathered- this is not the ideal climate for gardening. Unless you’re really into pine trees and other coniferous fare (Pop Pop is not into that type of fare.) Pop Pop was in the Navy and he doesn’t take no for an answer. He also worked at a meatpacking plant back in the Upton Sinclair days (I’ve asked him how accurate that hot dog description was and he wouldn’t tell me.) Pop Pop will defeat mother nature while still maintaining a Midwestern Charm that makes him such a threat to society. Pop Pop scoffs at impossible, because really, nothing is impossible for Pop Pop.

I was the pickiest eater in the world when I was younger, I blame it on not having a sense of smell but honestly I was just a finicky turd. I’d pretty much only eat pizza, chicken tenders and peanut butter. Somehow, though, Pop Pop got me to eat green beans from his garden. And when I say this I mean the man literally got me to eat the entire pod raw and covered in soil. To the point where my mom was like “Is that even healthy?” And Pop Pop told her it would help my immune system and make me big and strong (jokes on you, mom, he was right!) I didn’t really like the taste, I just really wanted Pop Pop’s approval and I hoped that someday I could inherit his garden AND rare coin collection.

“How does Pop Pop’s garden survive the winter?” You’re wondering with concern…

You probably figured Pop Pop didn’t think about that… But what did I tell you? Nothing is impossible for Pop Pop. He spits on “impossible.”

He turned his entire basement into a greenhouse. If you didn’t know it was Pop Pop’s basement you’d think it belonged to a serial killer, an aspiring and confused surgeon, a museum curator who takes his work home with him, or really anyone who feels the need to hang fluorescent lights from every inch of their ceiling in hopes that they will stimulate the growth of another lifeform by providing synthetic sunlight. I don’t really know why Pop Pop trusted us kids to go down there back in the day, because all we would do is take running leaps onto his plant wagon destroying everything in our path. Except the plants. Somehow.

Today I got a text from my mom letting me know she’s planting in the basement garden to prepare the seedlings for spring harvest. She told me they’ll be cleaning out 75 pots whilst listening to soft classical music (AKA Pop Pop music.) Pop Pop has every detail about the garden plotted in a tattered looseleaf notebook that only he can read. Not because it’s in code, but because his handwriting is so horrendous that he’s the only living human who can interpret it. He keeps this precious notebook locked safely in his “Coin Room” a room that my brothers are often dragged into for unsolicited rare coin lectures. My dad goes in willingly and is secretly lobbying to inherit the coin collection (even though he’s not blood related.) A battle for another day I suppose. Just beware… I see you, Alex.

In all seriousness, I’ve been complaining about not having any inspiration to write for weeks now. I claim that writing is my passion and I want to make a career out of it. I claim it comes naturally to me and that I’d do whatever it takes to succeed with it. But I just went a month without posting to this blog, with no valid excuse for it. I’ve been the prototypical “uninspired writer” with the insufferably cliched “writer’s block.” And if I’m being totally honest, I’ve felt pretty damn insecure about everything I almost posted.

Pop Pop is 90 years old. For the last 10 years my mom and her siblings have begged him to stop gardening. They don’t want him to get injured walking down the steep stairs to the basement (they’re VERY steep, no joke I’ve fallen down them several times.) He assures them that he’ll tone it down, but he continues to sneak in there day after day to tend to the glorious Wisco Greenhouse he’s worked tirelessly to perfect. The only time Pop Pop won’t garden is when he PHYSICALLY CAN’T.

Yet, here I am. Living in Los Angeles, spending hours on Reddit saving memes to a folder on my desktop at work called “Dank Memes” and sending them to my friends on iMessage. Here I am buying Kombucha on tap for $4.00 at work and still living with myself. Here I am getting stoned, eating an entire pint of ice cream and watching the Bachelor on Tuesday nights to feel better about my life. Here I am, afraid to write about things that matter because of how I believe people will react.

All of us unmotivated pieces of shit need to live like Pop Pop. Pursue your passion until your body refuses to let you do so anymore. And even then, keep doing it and do it well. There’s no excuse for giving up on something that you claim to love doing. If you really want to be successful you have to devote yourself to doing so. No more of this month long gap bullshit. No more fear. Chips Are Back in Town.

And as Pop Pop loves to ask “Whaddya say to that!?”

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The man, the myth, the legend… And the woman who constantly keeps him on his toes.