Tag Archives: emotions

Fatass (A-Z Challenge)

One evening about three years ago, I left my apartment in the Haight in San Francisco to go meet some friends for dinner (or maybe it was just wine? Lol it was usually just wine.) at their place, which was about a three minute walk away. I reached a crosswalk at a four-way stop sign intersection, where there was a white pickup truck stopped across the street. I began crossing the street, and the truck suddenly lunged forward; I thought it was going to kill me. I jumped back, shaken and panicked, the truck stopped about a foot away from me. The driver, a white dude around age 30, stared at me angrily, as if it were my fault that he’d almost run me over. Still shaken, I yelled something along the lines of, “You almost killed me, you asshole!” He revved his engine and sped past me, yelling out the window, “Watch where you’re going, you fatass!”

I stood stunned in the intersection for about five seconds, and then I started walking–and crying.

I cried all the way to my friends’ apartment–heaving, sweaty sobs that wouldn’t let up despite all efforts to control myself. I think I frightened every hipster in Cole Valley as I staggered unsteadily down Cole street, but through a combination of muscle memory and luck I somehow managed to make it to my friends’ place and rang the doorbell. They buzzed me up, where I immediately collapsed on the couch, wailing and saying I wished I was dead. And in that moment, I truly meant it. I wanted to die, because some asshole in a pickup truck almost killed me, and, more importantly, called me a fatass. Let that sink in. A dude called me fat, so I wanted to die. I almost wished he’d hit me.

My friends (a married couple, two of my best friends) were bewildered. They obviously agreed that the dude was an asshole, and they consoled me, calling me beautiful and a good person and all the great things friends say, and they were wonderful. I was so lucky that I was with them that night, because I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I’d been home alone. I don’t remember too much after finally calming down, presumably because I got really drunk. The next day I went to work as usual, if a bit hungover, (I was still at Google then) and tried to forget all about it.

I failed.

That moment occupied my thoughts for weeks, making me cry repeatedly. Even now, from time to time, I still replay that incident in my mind, and feel a huge combination of shame and anger. Ashamed that I was apparently fat enough to invite insult from a stranger who almost ran me over; angry that he’d insulted me; ashamed that I’d broken down like that and said such horrible (if true) things about suicidal ideation in front of my friends; angry that I let this guy get to me and couldn’t just brush it off. Sometimes I go weeks without thinking about it; sometimes months, but at least three to four times a year, I remember that guy and it’s like I’m standing in Cole Valley crying my heart out all over again.

Lately, I’ve been reading more and more about the body positivity movement. I think it’s a great thing, but it’s been really hard for me to internalize its messaging. The images that surround us and the expectations that are forced on us (“us” meaning mostly women, but men get this shit, too) regarding body shape, weight, and general beauty standards are out of control and pervasive. I get this. I also know, from my own experience and from #Science, that no matter how much I diet I will never be anything below a size 8, and that would be pushing it, so loving myself the way I am is the right way to go. I also know that I am not a repulsive-looking human to most people. I know that my physical health is good. I know that we are all perfect the way we are. I’ve read the blogs and watched the vlogs and am a regular commenter on feminist sites to the chagrin of bros everywhere. I know that I will be happier if I can let go of my body issues, eat well and exercise, and just let my body be what it is. I know that this will be a wonderful thing.

So why, three years later, am I still so upset about what one asshole with sub-par driving skills had to say about my body that I let it screw with my head–and my eating habits? Why does the word “fatass” still fill me with self-loathing and the urge to throw up or binge? Why do I sometimes conjure up an image of his face (though I never really got a good look at him; my subconscious has filled in the details, I guess) in my head and feel so much rage that I imagine inflicting serious physical harm on him? Seriously, I’m not kidding. I fantasize about punching him in the head, kicking him in the balls, stabbing him in the chest with a knife, shooting him between the eyes with a gun. I hate this stranger so much because he made (who am I kidding, he still makes) it easier for me to hate myself, and then I give into his words and hate myself some more. I call myself a “fatass,” and not in an affectionate, self-deprecating way. I look in the mirror at my thighs and my stomach (and this is after losing some weight over the past few years, ironically!) and cry at how much of me there is.

There are many reasons why I do this, I suppose: society is a bitch, my depression and anxiety are shitty, being a perfectionist is the worst, a history of hearing fat-phobic and sexist comments from people (men and women, but in my case especially men) my whole life has not helped. I also carry guilt for having, thinking, and once or twice even expressing similar sentiments about fat people in the past. What right do I have to let go of my feelings about this one-time incident when I’ve thought equally mean things about other people, even if it was years ago?

I wish I could overcome these barriers to self-love, but where I stand right now, even with all the reading and self-educating and therapy and life changes that I have experienced in the past three years, it is still really fucking hard. Some days, it feels impossible. For every time I eat a piece of cake and don’t care, there are four instances when I cry out of guilt over eating a piece of bread. The bad days still far outnumber the good days.

So, you may be thinking, what the fuck is even the point of this post, Jackie? Just to depress us? No. I think the point is to acknowledge, in writing, where I am and who I am right now in the “journey” of self-love. I am a girl who is still thinks that being fat is the worst thing I could be. I am a girl who sometimes eats cake and doesn’t care. I am a girl who sometimes cuts carbs and feels great about it. I am a girl who reads body positivity blogs and loves the shit out of them. I am a girl who looks in the mirror and hates herself. I am a girl who puts on my favorite black dress and thinks back to that asshole on in the white pickup truck and thinks, “He wishes he could get a piece of this fat ass!” I am the girl who still imagines punching that asshole in the stomach.

Maybe by talking about this and telling you all that I want to punch him in the stomach, I’ll be able to let some of that anger go. I don’t know; we’ll see if it works.

think, I hope, I want that my progress to date will be enough for now. I know that when I die, no one is going to give a shit about the size on my pants, or what I weighed, or whether people thought I was hot or not. No graveyard ever sports headstones reading, “She died thin!”

I will try to remember that. I will try to remember that I am enough. I hope you remember that, too.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post in the comments. xo

Sometimes We Are All This Delicious, Mangled Cake

Yesterday, it was twenty degrees out and snowing (IN EFFING APRIL), my broken foot was aching from the cold, and I was stuck in my parents’ house. I tried writing and failed because my head was foggy from weather-induced depression. The family dog, also suffering from cabin fever, was determined to spend the entire day either licking my nose or biting my right forearm (not sure why my arm and nose are yummier than other parts of my body) in spite of every treat, game, or other scheme designed to distract her. I was PMSing and on the constant verge of tears. So, after a few hours of trying to be productive and positive, I gave up on and decided I was going to bake an AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL chocolate cake with cream cheese icing from scratch, because IT WAS AN APRIL SNOWSTORM OF DEATH, SCREW EVERYTHING.

The cake itself turned out beautifully; the icing was easy to prepare and tasted great. Then I tried to put the icing on the cake, and it turned out like this:

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I don’t know what happened, but every time I tried to apply icing to the surface of the cake, it, like, tore the top of the cake up. I tried a knife, a spatula, a spoon, my fingers–it was all a bust. So, after mangling my beautiful cake with ill-applied icing for ten minutes, I gave up and began to cry.

Now, I realize that crying over a badly-iced cake is…not rational. But I was SO tired of the day, and my aching foot, and my foggy winter-in-April brain, and all I wanted was to PRESENT A PRETTY CAKE TO MY FAMILY AND EAT IT FRONT OF THE SAD-EYED, HUNGRY DOG AS RETRIBUTION FOR HER NIPPING AT ME ALL DAY! WAS THAT REALLY TOO MUCH TO ASK, UNIVERSE?

My mom, engaged in reading on her Kindle, basically rolled her eyes at my temper tantrum, and I snapped, “OH, FUCK IT!” and spooned a glob of cake-and-icing into a bowl and took a bite.

It was delicious. My parents had some for dessert and loved it, and the dog looked at us all as we ate with a satisfying mix of envy and yearning in her eyes (HA, DOG, THAT IS WHAT YOU GET).

As I sit here typing this and eating more of my leftover mangled cake, I realize that yesterday I WAS this cake: messy and ugly, but yummy inside. I took a useless, gross, bad-mood day and tried to make something good of it. We all do this–some of us more often than others–and the results are mixed. Sometimes we rally and create a beautiful masterpiece, complete with vanilla fondant and sugar roses. Sometimes, our best achievement is a shower and clean pajamas, and store-bought cake if we’re lucky. Most often, though, we end up somewhere in the middle, with a delicious chocolate-and-cream-cheese glob of almost-but-not-quite greatness to show for our efforts. All of these outcomes are okay, because despite the messy icing, we are all sugary goodness underneath.

Today, the sun’s out, and the cake will be gone soon if its current rate of consumption continues unabated, as will the snow. I hope you make the best cake you can today 🙂

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Witness the sad, cake-less dog in the middle distance.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post; please leave a comment below, or share or like if you’re so inclined!

 

Bad Blood and Mad Love

You know that feeling when you wake up after a week of being sick and stuffed up and achy and the cold or flu or whatever the hell it was that was making you miserable is just GONE and you feel fabulous? That just-after-sick feeling? Well, that’s similar to the way I feel when the veil lifts after a depressive episode. After the crapfest that was the past few days, that’s how I feel right now. Flyin’ high, and also motivated as hell. I’m ready to kick depression and anxiety’s ass and take some names. I’m gonna get in shape and heal my foot and write thousands of words a day and learn to grill fish and take a multivitamin and be a movie star. I’m high and I’m singing to my mental illness, adapting the words of the glorious Tay-tay:

Hey depression: Remember when you tried to write me off? We used to be mad love, but after what you’ve dooooone, NOW WE GOT BAD BLOOD (HEY!).

This feeling won’t last, of course–that’s the thing about feelings, they never last. But it’s an important feeling. It’s an anchor, a dock I can tie my boat to when the waves get rough. It’s a third nautical metaphor I can’t come up with right now.

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It’s a compass to shore? Eh? No, that sucks. Sorry, shitty writer here.

It’s a high partially fueled by the amazing support I got in the comments on this blog, from facebook posts and texts from people I haven’t spoken to in years. It’s from knowing I’m not alone.

I wrote that post the other night in the aftermath of despair, wanting desperately to connect and pay forward the kindness my mother shared with me to the internet at large. I wanted to see if I could help others and let them know they aren’t alone. I did, to a certain extent, but those same people made me realize that I am not alone, too. Really realize it.

So depression and I may have some bad blood, but you guys and I? Y’all, we got MAD LOVE.

HEY!

Would love to hear from you! Leave a comment on this post, and do share and like, too.

 

 

Not alone

Be warned: this is an honest post about depression and self-harm, so don’t read if that is not what you need right now.

Tonight was not a great night. Depression combined with PMDD combined with injury combined with rain combined to form a cocktail of true shitty-ness.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I have an intermittent history of self-harm. My depression and anxiety kick in, I get angry and disgusted with myself, and instead of just crying or shouting or hitting something else, I hit myself, usually in the head or leg, or both, to the point of bruising. Obviously, this is not good.

Tonight I was thoroughly convinced that I was a mean, fat, disgusting, stupid, lazy, weak-willed, worthless, uncouth, ungrateful, shallow, timid, and boring person, all at the same time. The cognitive dissonance required to think all of these things about myself at the same time was pretty impressive, but the result was not–I hit myself for the first time in probably over a year.

Besides the physical pain I caused myself, I also caused my mother, who saw me do it, emotional pain. I feel awful, and thinking about her distress brings tears of guilt as I type. But I am also grateful to her for helping me calm down and redirect the urge to hurt myself into actual discussion of my feelings, which she often shared when she had PMDD in her twenties and thirties. I’m grateful that she hugged me and dried my tears and told me she loved me. I’m grateful that she forgave me for the fear and hurt I made her feel by hurting myself.

I am lucky that I wasn’t alone.

I’m still somewhat stuck in a depressive a black hole, but my mother’s being present with me tonight was like a tiny sliver of light in that darkness. So I want to pass it on, right now, before I lose my nerve and delete this post:

If you are in despair tonight and there is no one there to comfort you, you are still not alone. There are millions of people who are with you. I am one of them. Even if no one is there to physically hug you and tell you that you are worthwhile, I will tell you now: you are not alone. You are a good person. How you are feeling is temporary, but whether this feeling lasts one hour or one day or one week or one month, you are NOT alone. 

Consider this a hug from me ❤

Love you.

 

 

Medication Frustration

This is the top drawer of my bedside table, a.k.a. the “med drawer”:

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This is where I keep the stuff that most folks organize neatly in a medicine cabinet. Mostly, it’s full of your typical and over-the-counter remedies: ibuprofen, pepto bismol, benadryl, cold medicine. It’s also where I keep my meds for anxiety, depression, and migraines. It’s a necessary, if messy, drawer. Usually, I open this drawer at night to take my daily medications without so much as a thought; it’s automatic, an action I’ve taken every night for years.

Sometimes, however, I really fucking hate opening that drawer. This week is one of those times.

I’ve been on some sort of daily medication to treat anxiety and depression pretty consistently since I was sixteen, which makes fifteen years of me opening this drawer (or its previous incarnations at my parents’ house and other apartments and dorms) every night. I’m incredibly grateful for this drawer, for the drugs in it (which have changed over the years several times–if you want to talk about the benefits and drawbacks of prozac vs. zoloft vs. lamictal vs. lexapro vs. a couple others I don’t remember at this point, I’m your gal) and for the doctors and therapists and friends and family members who have helped me get my shit together and get the help and medication I need to treat my anxiety and depression.

And yet, right now, I really hate that fucking drawer.

I hate that I have to cut my lexapro doses into little quarters as I wean off a higher “winter” dose to treat SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I hate the bitter taste of the pill residue that gets caught in my throat sometimes when I don’t cut the pills perfectly. I hate the fact that that higher dose made me incredibly drowsy in the afternoons for two months and eliminated my libido. I hate that these pills make it hard for me to lose weight and even, sometimes, to experience joy. I hate the fact that I rely, to some extent, on a pill to make myself “normal,” if there is such a thing.

I know that these feelings are valid–and likely temporary. I also know that there are alternatives to medication that I may try down the road in addition to my current therapy regimen. I also know that if I decide to try those methods and they work, that’s great. I also know that if I decide to try those methods and they don’t work, that’s okay, too, and meds will still be there and probably still be able to help me from falling into a non-functional depressive black hole.

I sincerely hope no one thinks that I’m saying meds are inherently bad or that no one should take them; I don’t think that at all. If you are feeling low, and especially if you are thinking of harming yourself, please go get help, and if a doctor or therapist thinks meds will help, consider their advice seriously. I’m also not advocating that anyone take meds if they truly feel they aren’t working for them. Basically, I’m the non-judgmental ninja over here, promise!

All I’m doing is sharing with you that, for whatever reason, this week I’m just tired of the process. I’m tired of opening that drawer. I think it’s okay to be tired sometimes. It’s okay to hate the drawer and to feel grateful for it at the same time. I hope, if you have a drawer, you know that, too.

 

 

Jackie’s Foolproof Process for Furniture Assembly and Losing Your Soul

Occasionally, despite my college education and now 31+ years of experience living as a Human on the Planet Earth, I make a Life Errorso gargantuan that it shakes the very fiber of my being and makes me doubt whether I am worthy of success, happiness, or love.

I order self-assembly furniture online.

I know, I know, but it wasn’t my fault! I am A WRITER, DAMN IT, and writers need desks. I could write while sitting at my kitchen table, but it’s cold in the kitchen. I can also go to a coffee shop, but a coffee is two bucks MINIMUM and it’s much cheaper to just make coffee at home. The obvious solution was a small-ish desk that fits into the bay window nook in my warm-ish bedroom with the cheap homemade coffee only feet away!

So I went on Wayfair and ordered a desk. Five days later, the desk arrived. And thus began my descent to the ninth level of hell, where I joined Brutus, Judas, and…Cassius (is he the third guy? too lazy to google) in being chewed in the giant maw of Satan.

The process began auspiciously when the FedEx guy cheerfully offered to haul the giant desk-containing box up three floors to my apartment. I immediately set out to assemble the desk, whereby I rediscovered Jackie’s Foolproof Process for Furniture Assembly and Losing Your Soul:

  1. Using a knife, cut through the tape along the edges of the box.
  2. Attempt to open box, and discover that there are apparently three more layers of taped-up cardboard between you and the desk.
  3. Hack through these layers while dripping sweat everywhere. Finally remove all the cardboard to discover the furniture is encased in a sarcophagus of styrofoam, which is all stuck together with a kind of tape that is probably used to seal airlocks on the International Space Station.
  4. Hack at the styrofoam, getting bits of it all over your apartment and inhaling a good 20% of it into your lungs.
  5. After 30 minutes of chopping at styrofoam, reveal the desk. Take a water and stretch break and realize that if you can’t open a box without getting breathless that you might want to sign up for the gym.
  6. Using the included mini toolkit, attach the four legs to the desk. Easy peasy! You’re 90% done- the last step is attach the knobs to the two little drawers that are built into the desk.
  7. You go to pull out the drawer. The drawer falls apart in your hand:wp-1452825930873.jpg 
  8. Ok, you can fix it! Get out your hammer and nails to see if you can cobble the drawer back together.
  9. OH MY FUCKING GOD HOW DID I HAMMER THREE FINGERS ON MY RIGHT HAND ALL AT ONCE OH GOD OH GOD IT HURTS AGHHHHH!!
  10. Breathe through the pain, breathe through it. Ok. You’ve got this.
  11. Go down the block to the local hardware store and buy superglue. Return home, glue the drawer back together, let it set for 20 minutes per instructions. Huzzah! It looks great! YOU ARE A GODDESS!
  12. Lightly touch the drawer with one finger to test the strength of the superglue. The drawer explodes.
  13. A single tear escapes your right eye. You remove the drawer and put the desk right-side up. The desk leg lands awkwardly and stubs your right toe.
  14. You burst into tears because ARE YOU KIDDING ME I WENT TO YALE I SHOULD BE ABLE TO PUT TOGETHER A FUCKING BUCK FIFTY DESK AND MY HAND HURTS AND MY FOOT HURTS AND I’M SWEATY AND IT’S RAINING AND THERE’S STYROFOAM ALL OVER MY APARTMENT AND I’VE BREATHED FIVE POUNDS OF IT IN AND NOW I’M GOING TO DIE OF STYROFOAM LUNG CANCER WHY AM I EVEN TRYING TO BE ALIVE IF I’M TOO STUPID TO SCREW TOGETHER A FUCKING WAYFAIR DESK sob sob sob.
  15. Call your mom, who is bewildered but manages to calm you down.
  16. Ashamed at your outburst, you try to go online to request replacement drawers for your desk, only to discover that the new Comcast set-top box that Infinity made you install earlier that day has DESTROYED THE INTERNET and the only network in range is called “We Can Hear You Have Sex” but it’s fucking PASSWORD PROTECTED.
  17. Cry.
  18. Remember that your phone has internet, and use that to request the parts. Ok, they’ll be here in a few days. It’s all good.
  19. Go out to a friend’s open bar birthday party to destress and consume three of these:
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    Yeah, that’s a shot that gets poured into it in addition to the rum.

     

  20. Go home and vomit up everything you ever ate or drank, but because you’re an IDIOT you throw up in the shower and not the toilet, and so when you wake up at 3 am and go in the bathroom you discover that you have to clean up a hell of a mess. You go back to bed and at 6 am you clean up and hydrate and go to the laundromat when it opens to wash your vomity clothes. Call Comcast, fix the internet, and wait for your replacement drawers as you recover your dignity.
  21. A few days later, the drawers arrive, in perfect condition! You replace them and the desk looks GREAT! HUZZAH! WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS OF THE WOOOOOORRRLD! wp-1453430169027.jpg
  22. Decide to take a walk to celebrate. Pull out your headphones so you can listen to some TUNEZ while you traipse through the park.
  23. FUCK
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Ain’t it always the way?

 

 

Last. Self-assembly. Desk. Ever.

The Thirty-First Year of the Jackie

So, it turns out that–despite the existence of alcohol and chocolate–I have made it to my thirty-first birthday. A year ago today, I was in a sort-of-impressive-sounding corporate job with a four-hour round-trip daily commute and an email addiction. I was really depressed, and so, shortly after turning thirty, I took a leave of absence which ultimately led to me quitting my job. It was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life, with the possible exception of going into that super gross hot tub at Myrtle Beach during our senior trip in college (those flesh-eating viruses are NO JOKE).

Now, one year into this journey off the beaten high-achiever path that I’ve dutifully followed for most of my life, I’ve achieved a new milestone: being proud of myself on my birthday.

This may not sound like a big deal, but for me, it really is. Once I was legally able to drink, I stopped enjoying my birthday. Every January 5th brought on a contemplative funk during which I lamented my lack of achievement and progress during the previous year: “Some people my age are olympic medalists! Half my friends have graduate degrees! Look at that guy; he’s only twenty-three and he makes so much more money than I do! Look at that girl; she’s only twenty-five and she’s married with a baby!  What have I done? Look at how worthless I am!”

I once expressed this attitude to one of my coworkers at Google a few years back. She was a pretty cool chick and refreshingly honest, and she was baffled by my view of aging. She’d lost a close family member at a young age and birthdays inspired gratitude in her–she was always happy and relieved to make it another year. I remember nodding and chastising myself internally for not being grateful enough for my birthdays and for not having cancer or losing an arm to that Myrtle beach hot tub, and then going right back to dreading early January and berating myself.

This year, however, is different. When it comes to traditional measures of success, this year certainly hasn’t touched most of those that preceded it. I can’t say that I work at a fancy company. I can’t say my salary is XYZ bucks per week. I can’t talk about awards or kudos or performance scores at work, or drop the name of any executives I work with.

What I can say, however, and what I’m proud of, is that I’ve had the most new experiences in the past year of my life than in the previous eight put together. These experiences ranged from good to bad to everything in between, but they made me think (and blog) about myself and the world deeply, and in different ways than I have before.

I experienced the joy of realizing that I could write, and write well(ish), and write enough words and sentences and paragraphs to make a whole book-type document that people might want to read. I experienced the excitement of getting an agent, and the subsequent anxiety and boredom of submitting to publishers.

I experienced the love of my family, and the grief of saying goodbye to a family member, albeit a furry one. I also experienced the excitement of welcoming a new love into my life, though this created drama with my old love, which was iced coffee (sorry bae).

I experienced the stress and exhilaration of travel, from people-watching the crazy costume-clad nerds of San Diego Comic Con to getting knocked up by food in Florence and trudging through the rain in Paris in super ugly shoes and seeing Britney dance way worse than when I saw her on tour when I was sixteen.

I witnessed two amazing couples get married on opposite-ish sides of the country and cried my eyes out both times because I AM A SAP, OK?

I experienced breakdowns and bad nights, and discovered new coping mechanisms to pick myself up when I fall or when the world seems too much to handle.

In short, I experienced life, and I had the time to really take it in, as opposed to watching it all pass me by. And, for the first time since I was a little kid, I’m proud of myself for that fact alone. I’m proud of myself for trying to live well, and I’m grateful to all those people (both IRL and on this blog) who have come along on the journey with me this year.

So, here’s to the thirty-first year of the Jackie! May the thirty-second be just as interesting, and may you still be interested enough to tune in and read about it once in a while 🙂

Love,

The Birthday Girl

 

 

Paris, je t’aime

 

Sappiness Warning: this post is sappy but I am sappy so yeah.

Last week was pretty terrible.  On top of ISIS The First Evil’s attacks in Beirut and Iraq, earthquakes in Japan, the continuing Syrian refugee crisis, general racism, and a million other awful shitty things I am no doubt forgetting, there was Paris.

Paris is one of my favorite places in the world.  I returned there for the first time since college this past August, when I was overjoyed to introduce one of my best friends to the city where I first discovered the joy of cheese for dessert (and lunch, and a snack, and breakfast).  Paris is the subject of more than half of the “artwork” pieces “decorating” my lame apartment.  It’s where I spent more evenings than I care to admit drinking two euro wine next to a dirty canal while various Frenchmen asked me if I was Mexican(?).  It’s where I fell sleep on the bus after a night of clubbing and ended up stranded in the suburbs at 3 am in a skimpy dress and heels higher than any I’ve worn since the age of twenty.  It’s where I got the news that a friend had died in an accident and cried my eyes out in a café at the thought missing her funeral while the usually stuffy waitstaff looked on sympathetically.  It’s where I learned to be an adult.  It’s where I first understood that I am a citizen of both the United States and the world. Seeing Paris under siege for hours on TV Friday night left me paralyzed for a good 24 hours.

None of this is different from what anyone else who loves Paris (or Beirut, or New York, or any other place ravaged by terrorism) has said or written before, but I just had to get it out, here and, as it turns out, on paper.  A new piece of (extremely lame) “artwork” now adorns the walls of my (extremely lame) apartment, in honor of the city that helped me grow up.  Paris, je t’aime.  Mon coeur est à toi pour toujours.

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How to prepare for an international vacation

After spending half the summer in New England, I am off again tomorrow for a ten-day jaunt to Italy and France!  As a generally anxious person, preparing for international travel is like entering Dante’s secret tenth level of hell, but I’ve developed a process that makes the experience painless!  Read on for Jackie’s Five Steps to a Stress-Free International Vacation:

Step 1:  Create detailed packing and to-do lists 5-10 days in advance of your trip.  Then do nothing about these lists until 24 hours before take-off, at which time you lose your shit when you realize that, despite having purchased five hundred bottles of travel-sized shampoo in the past, they have all gone missing and you have to go to Walgreens again to get more, along with wet wipes, because if you don’t bring wet wipes your mother WILL KNOW and she will PUT A POX ON YOUR HOUSE because MY GOD WET WIPES ARE THE ONLY THING YOU NEED TO TRAVEL OTHER THAN YOUR PASSPORT, APPARENTLY.

Step 2:  Lay out all your items neatly on your bed or desk and then pack them in an organized fashion by rolling and/or flat-packing in plastic bags.  As part of this process, you realize that every single item you own is wrong for the weather for the place you are going, which has gotten ~10 degrees hotter in the past year due to global warming.  Also, you’ve neglected to do your laundry for two weeks, so you have to take care of that while somehow finding time to run to Old Navy (YEAH I KNOW I’M CHEAP WHAT OF IT) to buy, like, three hundred sundresses.

Step 3: Double-check that all your advanced bookings for ground transportation and fun activities like wine tastings are confirmed and print out your confirmations.  As you’re checking, you realize that you have, in fact, neglected to make ANY advanced bookings for activities of any kind.  Cry when you figure out that it costs 200 Euros for a damned taxi to drive you to your hotel and that all the wine tastings are pre-booked.  When you print out your confirmations, discover that your printer has run out of black ink.  Copy all your confirmations into a blank document and make all text blue or red; feel slightly triumphant at this lame workaround/outwitting of your shitty Canon printer.

Step 4: Reward yourself with a packing break full of daydreams about how educational, relaxing, and sexy your European vacation will be.  Go to therapy where you cry again because you’re 100% certain your plane will crash over the Atlantic and the wreckage will be lost and CNN will cover your plane’s disappearance for the next 300 years.  Freak out about how thin and hot Italians and the French all are and how you’re a disgusting, uncouth American who sweats constantly.  Nod as your therapist kindly helps you stop hyperventilating.

Step 5: Finish up your packing early the night before so you can be well-rested and in a good mood for your flight the next day!  Drink wine and procrastinate finishing packing by writing a sarcastic blog post detailing your disastrous packing process, couched in a faux “how-to” format worthy of Cosmo magazines of the ’90s.

Hope you find these tips* helpful! Ciao!

*In all seriousness I am excited about my trip lol I promise.  Also, I will attempt to blog using just my phone and tablet a couple times from Italy and France, and will try to share some cool pics of my ~activities~ on social media throughout my trip if you are ~interested~!

How I leave my apartment when I am scared

Sometimes, when you are an anxious person, you go through periods where it is difficult to leave the house because you are afraid of really weird and/or unlikely stuff.  When you’re an anxious AND depressed person, it’s doubly fun, because sometimes you can’t leave the house because you’re afraid of really weird and/or unlikely stuff, and sometimes you can’t leave the house because you’re too sad and tired to get out of bed and have maybe forgotten how to shower.  It’s good to have variety, I guess?

Today is one of those hard-to-leave-the-house-because-I’m-afraid-of-weird-and/or-unlikely-stuff days.  Here is a short list of some of the things I am anxious about that may happen if I leave my apartment:

  • I forget my keys and get locked out of my apartment.  The locksmith is unavailable and I have to spend the rest of my life living with all the other homeless people in Golden Gate Park while my landlord jacks up the rent on my place to over three grand a month and lets it to a family of four who just feel lucky to afford anything in the city.
  • I step in dog poop and have to throw away my good flats.
  • There is a sudden tsunami and I drown and die.
  • There is a huge earthquake and a building falls on me OR a fissure opens up in the earth and I fall in and I die.
  • I get hit by a car and lose a limb(s) and/or die.
  • I have to go to the bathroom but I am somewhere where there is no bathroom and I am uncomfortable because I really have to pee but can’t (this is a very real fear and happens a lot because I keep myself well-hydrated so I don’t die of dehydration in case I am ever trapped somewhere without water and also because it helps with digestion).
  • There is a man outside my apartment laughing to himself while urinating on a tree and I have to walk past him while he catcalls me (this one is gross and happens about 1x per week because San Francisco).
  • I go all the way to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription because Walgreens texted me and said it was ready.  I get there, and it is not ready, and I have to wait at the pharmacy for twenty minutes during which time I run into someone I know and have to make small talk (this is scary and very possible due to unreliability of Walgreens).
  • I run into one of my neighbors in the lobby and have to make small talk (this one is the most terrifying because it is the most likely due to living in apartment building with actual other humans).

Some of these fears, as you see, are more likely to come to pass and are more dire than others, but my mind manages to rotate through all of them at such a pace that they all seem equally plausible and horrifying.  These fears live in a part of my brain ruled by The Blob.  The Blob is grey and always vaguely anxious and looks, coincidentally, like one of the ghosts from Pac-man:

Boo!
Boo!

The Blob is very well-meaning: he (or it?) just wants me to be prepared for any and all contingencies.  Unfortunately, when he’s in top form, his preferred form of preparation is for me to stay in the apartment and never leave.  This is not feasible, and so, on days like today, I have to use all the tools in my arsenal to get him to chill out.  Despite his constant yammering in my head since I woke up, I have managed to leave my apartment TWICE already and am planning to go out a third time – for a social engagement, no less, with, like, three other people!  What’s more, I’m meeting them in a restaurant that I have NEVER BEEN TO BEFORE, which is sort of a huge deal because new restaurants usually have Ebola (I’m pretty sure that’s science).

So how do I do it?  I’m not a superhero, and I have ZERO judgment for people who don’t manage to do it (there are days when I can’t, myself), but here are some coping strategies I have adopted throughout the years that help:

  • Medication – this is less a coping strategy than a preventive measure.  A lexapro & lamictal a day keep The Blob at bay!
  • Breathing – I breathe really slowly and just think about my breathing and nothing else until I can get up from my bed, put on shoes and a bra (and clothes) and leave the apartment.
  • Disaster-proofing my purse – people joke that I carry around a pharmacy in my purse…and I basically do.  Other than the usual keys, wallet, phone, I have nearly all stomach and headache remedies in my bag in a plastic pouch at all times.  The extra weight is worth the peace of mind.
  • Planning – going to a new place to eat?  I Google my route, menu options, and Uber ride prices as well as weather conditions (thanks, San Francisco micro-climates!).
  • Focus on the likely good outcome – this one is the most important.  Because of The Blob, I’ve often missed out on meeting people, going places, or experiencing things that could make my life a lot better/happier/more fun because I was too busy hiding in my apartment due to anxiety.  If I think instead about what GOOD could come out of whatever I’m leaving the apartment to do, my anxiety becomes that much more manageable.  For instance, tonight when I meet some friends from my old job for dinner, I can tell myself that not only will I most likely NOT get Ebola, I will also get to catch up with people who are awesome, hear all the juicy gossip since I left, and enjoy some delicious food at a place that has FOUR STARS on Yelp!

The best part of my coping strategies is that their effects are cumulative – the more often I manage to overcome The Blob and get out of the house, the (usually) more positive examples I have of good outcomes to look back on the next time I’m dealing with general or social anxiety!  Don’t get me wrong: I’ll always be something of a homebody, but on days like today I’m proud of myself for taking the leap…and leaving my apartment.  Anyone else have good coping strategies to share?  I’m always looking for more!

Well, only two hours to go until I leave for dinner!  Time to go pack my purse, get some work done, and research the temperature at 8 pm tonight in the Mission 🙂