Blackout of 2018

A universal concept we all address at some point or another is the denial of certain situations becoming our situation.

“This thing will definitely not happen to me…”

“But, you know, that would never happen…”

“That’s never happened before so I doubt it would ever happen now…”

Only to have moments later that exact situation to happen. Which is what the bulk of this post is about. Anticipating struggle.

***

I’m the manager of a hotel on the north side of Chicago. It’s a boutique hotel built in the early 1900’s with only 45 rooms. Despite my constant aspiration I would still say that my biggest claim to fame would be on Trip Advisor (I’m apparently a DELIGHT!) I took my first vacation this past week to attend a wedding in Florida of a dear friend of mine. This vacation has been planned since October of 2017 and I was excited to be able to relax and unwind in the sunshine state, visiting Key West and Tampa to see old friends.

And then about a week before I left my identity was stolen. As was $7000 through my credit card.

Being financially assaulted in this way caused my life to implode right before my vacation. I battle with my stance on vulnerability in writing this blog post because I don’t want to talk about it at all, which has actually made me want to write my next blog post about m o n e y. So fucking much of my shame and sadness has always related to money, so I won’t even get into it here because it deserves it’s own dang post. Check back in two weeks from now to hear about how poor I’ve always been (and hahahaha probably always will be!)

Long story short: My vacation wasn’t all that exciting anymore.

This happened in the week leading up to my flight, causing me to tumble into one of the most depressive episodes in Chicago thus far, with the exception of the times in which I was sexually assaulted (but this experience felt very familiar and also triggered a lot of issues with PTSD from those incidents). I hid from everyone. I relapsed in ways I hadn’t explored in years. I extended the release date of a project that I have been working on since late 2017. Truth be told, I just wanted a CTA bus to drop tackle me all week.

Meanwhile, I needed to get everything ready at the hotel for my super duper fun and definitely expensive vacaaaaaay. I was very anxious leaving the property for a week because I wanted to make absolute sure that everything that needed to be taken care of was accommodated. Not to mention we had a new-hire so I needed to make sure that every possible bad thing that could happen was covered and trained so that all my nuts and bolts ran smoothly while I was in Florida.

Over the weekend I was gone, a thought occurred to some of my desk agents. What would they do if there was blackout? They realized that if at any point in time (and psht, this would never happen) the lights were to all shut off, they wouldn’t actually know what to do in that situation.

So naturally, around 5pm on Saturday there was a blackout at my hotel. And meanwhile, I too was suffering from a blackout of astronomically high alcoholic proportions.

Thankfully they called our building maintenance technician and not the lady that the wedding’s bartenders had dubbed “Two Shots of Tequila”. The lights came back on and everything was well (for the hotel anyway, my lights didn’t turn on until much later in my hotel room when my friend wouldn’t stop quoting “Shrek” while we tried to sleep.)

This conundrum made me think about the two sides of fear I see (and dish out) the most.

1. “This would never happen to me” (denial).

2. “This is definitely going to happen to me” (paranoia).

And what matters most is that no matter how much we anticipate struggle there is no way to avoid it happening when it does. I flew around the hotel looking like Beaker from The Muppets for three days straight to prevent anything going wrong and in the end, that didn’t change our entire city block’s power being shut off (and I mean like, there was bitch trapped in our elevator that I’m shocked didn’t write a shitty review of us level of blackout).

Is this the part where I am supposed to bring up balance? Ehh, probably, but no thanks.

I can tell you 100% that I would never have thought that my identity would be stolen. Or that I would have to respond to student suicide, be sexually assaulted, and definitely not be sexually assaulted again. Regardless, I constantly make myself anxious in trying to control everything that I cannot because what if a bad thing happens to me again?

In the end this makes it that I am:

1. Always blind-sided by the shitty things that happen to me (because if these things happened what else could possible go wrong? Oh shit, something can still go wrong?)

2. Always allow my constant anxiety for small stupid shit to be affirmed by anything that blind-sides me (because my anxiety is now valid because, I mean, look what happened!)

Which adds up to me just never being fucking happy I guess.

And that has nothing to do with any of the stuff that has happened (which is objectively pretty shitty stuff), that has everything to do with the way I view and anticipate pain and struggle.

In the past (and I would say even on this blog) I have said that I always feel so close to killing myself because I wouldn’t know how to handle anything worse than what I have already experienced. But…what makes something worse? Why does something have to be worse?

The identity theft and financial loss that made me re-evaluate this claim because I am in fact, still here (you’re begrudgingly welcome). And I really didn’t want to be, guys. I’m still processing what happened to me and accidentally “processed it” (read: was kicked out of not one but two bars) while in Florida. This type of pain is something I’ve never had to process and it is fear based. I questioned if the identity theft was worse than the sexual assault and that was the point in which I realized I can’t look at pain in the way that I do. Constantly one-upping my own traumatic experiences. This strips each experience of the potential growth from them.

I used to view pain and struggle as a spectrum from least painful to most painful. I realize now that its just all over the damn place and the degree in which is hurts is also all over the place, dependent on a million factors. Not everyone is gonna bat an eyelash at losing $7000 but that makes me want to vomit even typing it out. Would I have been as hurt by the identity theft if I hadn’t already felt like so much has been stolen from me through the assaults? Probably not and that just proves my point even further. If you view all of your pain as compounding, this will in fact cause you to eventually kill yourself. You justify all of your darkness and validate the idea of never finding light.

But most importantly: Anticipating pain won’t make any of the horrible things that happen to you any less painful.

***

I’ve been trying to just allow myself to not be okay and feel pain as it comes, something I’ll never predict. I relaxed many times in Florida, allowing a forecast of brief showers of affection and gratitude and way too many double tequila pineapples. I saw many people that I love and cherish and allowed myself to let as much love in as possible, knowing very well that it would make it harder to do anything dumb when I went back to Chicago and my vacation was over.

I’m trying to see pain as necessary and I’m trying to view future pain in the same way that I view the impending Chicago winter. It’s going to fucking suck and maybe make me want to give up and die in the middle of the street but hopefully (maybe by July or something?) it will be over. It will pass.

I’m trying, at least. It’s hard, especially now. But as is the case in many of these stories and explanations, trying is sometimes all that I can manage and it’s okay. Regardless of the varying levels of effect, I still sabotage my own mental illness on a daily basis. I encourage everyone else to do the same because even if you want to kill yourself, you can’t do that as easily if you promised someone that they could stay at your hotel with your employee discount. Where would they go, the Hampton Inn???

I also apparently want to sabotage my liver because I was so hammered on this trip that I switched shirts with a man that wasn’t wearing a shirt at all.

Here’s to another post and many more to come.

That’s a promise.

 

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Seis la vie

This is my sixth blog post on Twenty Unfourtunate, which feels pretty nice. It’s no longer one of the early posts but it definitely isn’t one of the last, seeing as I still have most of this year to live. I’ve been very stressed and overwhelmed lately. It is time like this where I tend to let smaller projects (like idk, a blog maybe) go to the side and focus on only the important stuff. Which is unfair to do the fact that importance can be pretty subjective, especially when you have to keep reminding your brain to stop wanting to self-destruct.

This blog is an important stuff. So while I don’t have anything in particular that I feel like I should talk about (at this point in time, anyway), I still want to post and give myself a break from everything else for moment. Because while everything else seems to whirl around me, this blog could be a constant. If I want it to be. Or rather, allow it to be.

And what has been on my mind MOST lately if how hard it is to describe my issues with people who don’t suffer from any mental imbalances. I don’t blame them at all and honestly the only feelings of negativity I have toward these people are rooted in envy.

BUT I also think people should try to understand. Most of the people I surround myself with do but I still sometimes run into times where my sentences end with, “I don’t know, I guess I don’t really know how to articulate this…”

So here is me trying to do just that. I’m going to provide comparisons to other struggles in our day-to-day that may provide some empathy and understanding toward mania . So, without further ado:

Depression kinda feels like…

  1. Constantly receiving a breakup text from your willingness to live.
  2. Walking in on your partner cheating on you but your partner is your brain and the other person is every possible bad decision you could make (like getting plastered BEFORE a work-related event where there is an open bar) and your brain and the bad decisions are just GOIN’ AT IT.
  3. Already being hammered but at an open bar (may or may not relate to #5)
  4. When you wake up after missing your alarm after 24 years .
  5. Always having an ear infection that makes it that you only ever hear the shitty things people say about you.
  6. Waiting for 40-60 years in line for Space Mountain except Space Mountain is just dying and the cool music in the queue keeps skipping and asking you why you haven’t texted them back in a while.
  7. When your flight keeps getting delayed over and over and over again but you didn’t bring a charger to the airport and your destination is For This to All Be Over (or like, Key West which is kinda the same thing)
  8. Being forced to attend the wedding between two friends you barely speak to anymore named Self-Care and Self-Worth.
  9. The feeling you get when you didn’t know there was another step so you trip and fall on your fucking face after having a minor heart attack.
  10. Dry heaving all of your responsibilities when you haven’t eaten in days.

….but all the fucking time.

 

Stay tuned for an exciting project I am working on which has taken up the majority of my mental capacity. In the mean time, catch me back here in another two weeks.

Thanks for reading.

Cat Eye of the Storm

When I was a kid I used to sleep through hurricanes.

Growing up in Florida, this was pretty common and often necessary. But my dad used to tell me that he was impressed with the level of storm I was able to sleep straight through, regardless of how crazy the storms would get. Knowing the person who I am today, this behavior makes sense.

There are five categories of hurricane on the official Saffir-Simpson scale, increasing in destruction with each category. I’d wager that most of the storms I’d sleep through were lower categories of hurricanes but I do remember some of the harsher storms that people see on the news. The sky would turn green, branches would smash into our house, the wind a constant roar from outside. I loved watching a storm form (if I was awake for it).

What I loved the most about hurricanes was that there wouldn’t even always be a lot of rainfall. Sometimes it was horrible outside and you wouldn’t even know it unless you were actually out there, inside of the storm. There’s something beautifully unassuming about a destructive storm without rain to me.

I think I find it beautiful because high-functioning mental illness can feel like that. Complete chaos and destruction with moments of complete and total control and clarity. Making the storm all the more frustrating because since no one can see the rain, no one believes that the storm exists in the first place.

It’s hurricane season and I’ve adopted a “category four” cat.

***

I’ve wanted a cat for quite some time. I’ve always been a cat person and when it came to moving to Chicago I always had the idea of adoption in the back of my head. For a few reasons, really.

  1. Great for cuddles and love.
  2. Great for the lonely feelings that occur intermittently throughout the day.
  3. HORRIBLE for suicidal idealization.

It’s true. Harder to kill yourself when you have a cat.

Disclaimer: I had many reasons to adopt a cat and considered e v e r y t h i n g that must be considered prior to choosing mine and I would have adopted the little nugget whether or not I had considered tripping over a javelin that week. This cat has a good home and will always be cared for. I could never leave the poor little thing (and I suppose my friends, family, and employees but you know, whatever).

Partially out of fear that my cat would eat my corpse.

I do believe that she would eat my dead body. I guess that would be okay with me because the idea of my cat suffering because of my (probably botched) suicide would really upset the ghost version of myself. However, I’m not positive that she would be eating me just because she needed to survive. She might eat me just because I stopped moving for long enough.

My cat’s name is Tefiti (yes, from the Pixar film Moana), but we call her Fiti. Fiti was taken in off the streets by Chicago Animal Control. Fiti is a year-and-a-half old tabico that loves treats, laser pointers, and fluffy blankets.

She is also completely and totally mentally unbalanced. But it makes sense.

This is her story:

Fiti was born a year and a half ago to what I have romanticized as a wonderfully happy cat family. However, she was separated from her mother far too quickly as a kitten which has caused her to still suckle random things around the apartment. I’m not sure about this gap of history, however, at some point after she was separated from her mom, Fiti was adopted into a home, thrown out of said home onto the mean Chicago streets ( the streets of hopefully, like, Lincoln Park but ???), and also became PREGNANT with kittens. These kittens are currently MIA. So not only was little Fiti separated from HER mom, but her children were also separated from HER. All of this happened within a year and a half of her little kitty life which was spent mostly on the streets.

So the bitch is damaged.

She’s a cat version of a teen mom just trying to make a kitty name for herself on the Chicago streets who needs no man, just pigeons to kill. And PAWS Animal Shelter took her in to help her find a forever home.

When you enter a shelter to adopt an animal there are tons of thoughts that go into your head. Those thoughts do not usually include, “Let’s find one of the most high maintenance animals in this building.” My boyfriend and I certainly didn’t have this thought (but probably should have).

We wanted a kitten because, you know, kittens. And not just because they’re the cutest but because we wanted a cat that would grow with us and bond to us as it’s owners which can be harder for older cats to do sometimes. Kitten wasn’t a requirement, just a preference. There were no kittens but they said that there was a younger cat “upstairs” that we could take a look at. She wasn’t allowed with other cats.

Before entering the room the employee explained that the shelter had different “categories” that they used to distinguish the cat’s behavior. Category One held no conditions for adoption, so essentially “WILL YOU NOT KILL THE KITTEN?! NO?!? HERE, TAKE IT!”. The cat we were about to meet was a “category two” cat.

“What does category two mean?” we asked.

“Oh, well, you have to have experience with owning a cat in the past and she is also not allowed to be around any other cats.”

No red flags had mentally flown yet. She can’t have other cat friends and I have to have had a cat before. Check. Check. Open the damn door, lady, I wanna see my future cat.

And sure as shit, we walk into the room and little Fiti ran up to us and we fell in love immediately. We chose her and the attendant was ecstatic. We left her little cat room and went downstairs to complete the paperwork.

As we left the room, the attendant grabbed her paperwork off the door. She was the only cat in the room so grabbing her papers was easier than most cats whose files were with the other cats in the room. When I turned back to say goodbye to Fiti I caught a glimpse of her papers.

While waiting for her to be delivered to us, I asked my boyfriend a question.

“Hey, Colin, did you happen to catch a look of her papers as we left?”

“Are you talking about the fact that her papers said category four on them? Yeah, I saw that.”

………….

I asked, “Should we…be worried about that?”

“Nah. They probably just didn’t update it.”

If at this point you are wondering, “What the hell does category four mean?!” you would be echoing many thoughts that I have had in the past two weeks since adopting Fiti, or as she was originally named “Regina” (what I call her when she is being a total bitch).

If I had to GUESS what category four cat meant simply based on my Fiti experience so far it would be:

  1. Don’t pet her no matter how cool she seems with it. She isn’t (see #4).
  2. At any point in the morning and at night she will randomly transform into an actively manic squirrel and if you make eye contact with her she will proceed to pounce at you in the scary Halloween Cat way or just run around the room aimlessly causing you to trip over yourself constantly.
  3. She’ll aim for your ankles when she pounces. She knows human weakness.
  4. She will bite you if you let her.
  5. She will hate it when you get upset at her for biting you and if you tell her to stop she’ll apologize by biting you again but in a different place.

In summary: This gorgeous creature that I love dearly and will love for the rest of her life? She’s a manic motherfucker.

So I’m not positive but I think it is distinctly possible that Fiti was a category four cat. Which has been the introspective element to this situation because while I am pretty overwhelmed at times due to Fiti’s behavior (like, I ran away from her in fear toward the beginning levels of overwhelmed) it also forces me to think about what category I would be if I was a cat or a hurricane. This cat is manic as shit but at the end of the day…so am I. 

Are there categories for how chaotic people are? What category would I be filed under?

Seeing as I spend significant time in this post discussing the culinary politics of my cat eating my corpse after killing myself, I’d wager that I wouldn’t be considered a “category one” person.  

***

Truth be told, the entire adoption process has forced me to think more about the people that surround me in my life, week by week, that see me and interact with me that are unaware of what category I file under when it comes to self-destruction and mental health. No one can really tell what category I am.

I go out with friends, I go see movies, I’m a part of a DnD campaign. I’m working on a web series, I write this blog bi-weekly, I try to always keep creatively busy. I’m a manager at a hotel, I attend “revenue” meetings, I constantly handle guest’s financial and service concerns. Meanwhile, on my days off if I don’t wake up right when I planned to wake up it can be enough to cause me to not speak to anyone for hours and stay in bed the entire day. 

High-functioning mental illness is a privilege and also a curse in this way. For the most part, I’m able to do all of the things I want to do but experience heavy turbulence during those events. Some people can’t manage to even take off and I feel for them deeply because I have those days, too. I just wish that people didn’t need chaos and destruction in order to care about a cause. It’s almost never that simple. Why does it take flooding for people to care about a hurricane? Why does it take a suicide attempt to make people care about depression?

No matter how much we wish differently, people are not cats or hurricanes. We cannot be categorized, as much as people try every single day to do so. We have no idea of how stable the people we surround ourselves are. Unfortunately there isn’t a system set up at parties (YET!) where you can walk up to me and read a sign on my back that reads, “Category 7, 24-year old female, manic depression with anxiety disorder that now wants to get paid for being funny.” 

But there are a ton of people in my life that spend time with me regardless of what category they have mentally filed me. That’s because they love me and I love them, regardless of what storm is happening at the time or how able they are to hear me during the chaos. Every time the skies clear I look around to see what wreckage has occurred and most of the time, the damage is less than I anticipated (or rather, catastrophized if you remember what that means).

That’s because of the people in my life that listen to me, work with me, understand me, and ultimately love me regardless of what category my storm is currently classified as. They pick up whatever pieces they can, they send signals for reinforcement, they support me. I am incredibly thankful for having the people in my life that I have at this point and it took a long time for me to find this. Thank you to everyone that has helped with the continual fallout of Hurricane Jessie. 

***

As I’m sure many of you have seen on your Facebook news feed, September is Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention month. Support systems (which come in many forms) are paramount to finding help and consolation on the stormy days and I urge anyone reading that is struggling to reach out to find that support, regardless of how difficult it might be to do so. It can and will save your life.

As for the more “mentally balanced” folk out there, you may not always know what to say or the best ways to help others suffering silently. Ultimately the answer is to not be a dick and love without reservation. If you do both of those things you are probably doing more than most people in the world, anyway.

Here is to a month of addressing mental health! I encourage all to remember that you do not need chaos or destruction for a problem to be “real”. Let’s do our best to understand that there doesn’t always have to be rain for the storm to be insane.

I think, therefore I am depressed.

I would estimate that at least once every single day I have the outrageously tempting urge to completely and absolutely self-destruct.

“I think therefore I am.”

I’ve always loved this quote. In 6th grade my brain heard this for the first time and even as a fucking dweebus I still fell in love with those words. For the most part, John Locke could go fuck himself for all I truly care, however, his “cogito ergo sum” always resonated with me. It’s simple. You are. You are thinking, therefore you are. “Are” being an incredibly vague concept, “are” merely meaning present. But it’s very simple. You think. Therefore, you are.

There was never a footnote during the history lesson that warned me that I could maybe have a hard time with the whole “thinking” concept. That it could be very possible that I wouldn’t always think in a way that is constructive or healthy for me.

Which is to say, I think therefore I am…depressed.

Thankfully this song has started playing tremendously more on the radio. Mental illness has found a voice within our particular society and that voice is acknowledged and is supposed to be respected. Depression, anxiety, and the millions of other cognitive disorders are now considered to be actual illnesses in their own way. I do not feel as alone in this mental fight as I used to in my formative years.

However, I still think it’s pretty questionable how much these things are considered legitimate conditions. My ass is definitely not in any position to call into work and say, “Hey, so I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it in today………Why?…..Oh, not a huge deal, I’m just so anxious about leaving my apartment I want to drive a sword into my stomach samurai-style….No, yeah! I’ll be in tomorrow, for sure.”

But if I were to call in and say something like, “I can’t stop sweating or shaking. I’m struggling to breathe and I’ve been crying all night from all of this pain” I would probably get a legitimate response. “Don’t bother coming in”, they would say.

It’s all the same song and dance for me, though. Which is why this post is mostly about my relationship with my diagnoses and how we met and became friends in the first place. I’m gonna take you down the rabbit hole of boxing matches I’ve had against myself due to my mental health complications.

I’m talkin’ therapy.

*ding ding*

ROUND ONE:

JESSIE

VS.

MISS NOELLE

I was diagnosed as having “severe”/”major”/”clinical” (you fucking decide) depression and anxiety as a junior in high school. It wasn’t too complicated. I was cutting the fucking crap out of myself at the time. I treated my wrists and arms as physical scoreboards for my thoughts of self-hatred, sporadically carving away until I could predict if my right arm or left arm would win the knife-fight against myself.

Something that never assisted the situation was the fact that my anxiety has always made me mentally struggle if things are not visually balanced or symmetrical. In rooms, offices, places of employment, you name it. So if I ever cut myself on one arm my dumbass was always anxious the next day about how topsy turvy I seemed to myself and only myself. It was the self-harm version of when you fuck up giving yourself bangs and keep giving yourself bangs until your ass looks like the freeky bitch from Die Antwoord.

Like this:

freeky

Thankfully, I had a truly wonderful teacher and mentor throughout high school named Miss D. One day after school, that woman straight up grabbed my arm and asked me, “What did you do?” Not like a pissed mom or police officer, but a person who was really sad about my decision making. I remember how horrible I felt after she asked me. I laughed it off and dodged the question but she persisted. She was so upset that I would do that, I could truly feel how much I had managed to disappoint her. This made something mentally click.

Hurting myself could somehow also hurt other people. This concept has been something I have to actively practice mindfulness of to this very day.

Miss D threw my ass in therapy impressively quickly (the next day). I was hesitant at first, feeling like I would realistically be unable to open up about any of the thoughts I was ever having. I met a woman named Miss Noelle and she was just as lovely as her name would insinuate. She had toys you could play with that helped me avoid eye contact. I slowly opened up to her. I told her about my parents and life at home, which was the source of a lot of my pain. I told her about the struggles I was experiencing in the church I was a part of (remember how I was in a cult?). I told her about how much I hated myself compared to all of my friends. We worked out a system in which I understood that if I said I wanted to kill myself she would be forced to take actions that would cause a phone call home (so we just DIDN’T say the “suicide” word). After a couple months she explained to me that I was demonstrating symptoms of severe depression and anxiety. These were emotions I had been processing from the time I was eight years old but since I was still relatively young it was possible that it wasn’t necessarily going to be a chronic illness.

(Spoiler Alert: it’s a chronic illness.)

In a way, Miss Noelle had a small “breakthrough” with me. She gave me tools to understand my feelings of hopelessness, which were nice. Because, you know, it feels slightly nicer when you believe the world is ending to at least be able to call it something fun like “catastrophizing” (look it up, you probably do it all the time).

***

Once I went to college I upgraded to the more Complex and Difficult Trauma Suite. My sophomore year of college I was attacked in a parking lot by a man who tried to shove me into the back of his van. I managed to kick the motherfucker in the knee and run away from him but my sense of personal safety and comfort was instantly compromised. (Sidenote: thinking of the parking lot incident at this point in my life makes me morbidly laugh. Like, I had NO CLUE what I was in store for, but that is a blog post for a later date my friends). After the incident, anyone that I talked about it with recommended that I went to see a campus therapist. So I did.

*ding ding*

ROUND TWO:

JESSIE

VS.

COLLEEN

Enter Colleen. I began seeing a therapist at the on-campus medical center. I went in with a strange itinerary of conflicts with a lack of awareness of where to really start. Shall I begin with my drug addicted father? Nah, that’s kinda overdone at this point. What about the fact that I’ve relapsed into cutting myself after two years of not doing so? Nah, too strong, should keep that one for later. I ended up just beginning with why I was there to begin with. A bad thing happened to me which caused every other bad thing in my life to feel much less manageable. And then I figured we would just work from there.

I told her about the incident in the parking lot and she empathized with me, told me it was okay to be sad and all that shit. I then explained the element of the whole situation that was the hardest for me to process. For some reason, I wished the guy had succeeded in taking me. Because then all of this hopelessness I felt all the time would hopefully be over.

There was a cap of six free sessions per year for the therapy program. Colleen said fuck that shit and asked to see me once a week. She wanted to consistently meet and talk with me to discuss how I could feel better and improve. What followed was one of the strangest relationships I’ve ever carried with a person.

In that first year with Colleen, she tested and diagnosed me with all of the fun badges I had been tentatively awarded in high school. We met every week and she discussed options and mindfulness. Medication became a topic that I explored and very quickly tossed to the side due to side affects that worsened a lot of stuff for me. I enjoyed her company and she enjoyed mine and even if I felt like none of it was working (man, why the fuck can’t I stop cutting myself?), I knew that I at least was doing the thing. Doing the “wanting to live and not jump out of a building” thing the way I was supposed to be doing.

The awesome part of depression is that it makes it SUPER easy to blow off your therapist sessions. And the dope part of anxiety is that if you miss one of those sessions you have a horribly difficult time gaining the courage to show up for the next week’s session. And if you’re me and allow both of those to take over, two weeks can be enough for you to avoid an entire section of campus for the remainder of a school year.

There were times that I missed Colleen and wished I had the balls to go back to her office and just start from where we stopped. But I’m a prideful sonofabitch so that never happened. Sophomore year ended. Junior year started. To be able to afford living on campus I became a Resident Assistant for one of the dorms.

***

There were two scenarios in the realm of Residence Life that I always said would make me quit being an RA if they happened to me. The first being a school shooting, which has always terrified me as it should horrify everyone on this damn planet. The second scenario was student suicide. It would feel way too close to home for me and I didn’t think I would ever be able to recover from handling that.

So, naturally, one of my residents killed himself in his dorm room.

I was the RA that was notified when the student’s friend had found him. I was in my room, having skipped class that day (for no reason other than symptoms of depression at the time). I found him in his bed quite unresponsive and as I stared down at his body, I knew he was dead. He didn’t feel “here” anymore. I mechanically told students to contact 911 and campus security. The hallway filled with students sobs, the ambulance arrived and students choked through their words explaining to the authorities how they knew him. How they remembered him. How horrible they felt that he was gone. That they just couldn’t believe that he could do such a thing.

I didn’t cry at all while handling the incident. I had gotten nursing students to attempt CPR on him. I had explained to detectives every detail of finding the body. My bedroom was the room that Residence Life chose to notify his parents of the death. No one at the school was prepared for a situation like that, it was the first on-campus student death. I listened on my bed to his mother being told that her son had died, a week before winter break when he would have been home for Christmas. The sound of her screaming still visits me at times. The entire ordeal lasted over five hours but I didn’t crack at all until everyone had left the dorm. And when everyone had finally left, I shattered. I shattered because in this horribly tragic situation, I had stared down at this poor kid and felt a surge of jealousy toward him. He was gone. I wished that I was.

The next day I avoided Residence Life to no avail. I was pulled into my supervisor’s office for a wellness check. I told him I was fine. He explained that I needed to go to the campus grief counselor and that she was available all day to work with the individuals that were closest the incident from the day prior. I turned him down. He then explained that it was not optional and told me he would go to the clinic with me. He explained that the grief counselor was great with people and I was required to go at least once, to at least be able to respond to students on the floor who were close to him. He took me to the clinic and waited in the lobby with me to ensure that I actually went to the appointment, like a dog going to the vet. And sure enough, the grief counselor came into the lobby and called my name.

*ding ding*

ROUND THREE:

JESSIE

VS.

Wait….

Colleen again?

Colleen entered the lobby and my supervisor stood and introduced me to the grief counselor that knew simply as “Colleen”. We didn’t, like, high-five or fist bump with recognition or anything like that. I glanced at my supervisor and back to Colleen with a subtle glare as to say, “Hey, this guy let’s me monitor and supervise 35 college students as a mentor, teacher, and resource, please don’t allude to the fact that I’ve told you that I find solace in razor blades?”

She caught my drift.

My supervisor left. And then all of a sudden I was with Colleen again. And I’ve never been very good at ignoring when elephants enter rooms and I didn’t make an exception there, I instantly addressed the fact that I ghosted her. She said she was pleased to see me again but very upset about the fact that it was triggered by such traumatic events. She apologized for what I had been through. So many people apologized and I never understood why. And to be perfectly honest, I was in such a place of mental torment that I could not tell you much of that visit other than the fact that I agreed to a second session which led to many many sessions that followed.

For the remainder of college (admittedly on and off again at times) Colleen got her hands dirty with my bullshit situation. We studied cognitive exercises and really got into the why of a lot of my anxiety. About six months into the process Colleen revealed to me that throughout our sessions she had noticed numerous patterns and behaviors that made her feel that my diagnosis was probably more than just the good ole’ depression and anxiety combo meal. At the beginning of my senior year she officially diagnosed me as “manic depressive” which is the more politically correct term for what most people just call “bipolar disorder”.

And with time comes age and with age comes my ass graduating from college and suddenly no longer having a form of health insurance.

***

If you follow this blog or know me personally you will understand that after I graduated from college was when I had a massive existential crisis that led to drug abuse, alcoholism, emotional manipulation, and self-destruction. And then a rebirth and renewal with my move to Chicago to pursue my passions.

And like discussed in other blog posts and future blog posts to come, many things have happened to me while living here that have actually led me to look back on my past struggles and be forced to acknowledge how worse it all could have been. And I’m 100% positive that it could have been worse due to the fact that I have already lived much much worse.

Which forces me to confront….

*ding ding*

Myself.

After some of the incidents that have occured to me here I have had numerous friends ask me if I would consider therapy. I’ve been given numbers, referrals, google map directions, you name it. Most people who listen to these experiences lack anything else to really say because truthfully, there isn’t much to be said. Shit happens. It’s horrible. And no one can really do all that much to help me other than listen. And therapists are literally paid to do just that.

Still, a hesitation persists. I know I need a therapist. But for the first time in my life, there isn’t a teacher who lovingly throws my ass in an office with a specialist. There isn’t an overbearing supervisor who forces me to attend grief counseling. It’s just all of the same horrible incidents and pre-existing mental imbalances but with no forceful hand to push me in the direction I will eventually appreciate. To push me in the direction in which I keep fighting and keep pushing forward.

The only forceful hand in Chicago is my own. My body and mind are exhausted. And sometimes I really fucking hate fighting.

***

“I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am. I am thinking, therefore I exist.”

A lot of people know “I think, therefore I am” because Mrs. Hannigan or whatever taught them about John Locke before hashing out the American Revolution unit. However, Locke STOLE THAT SHIT from some French bitch named Rene Descartes. Locke simplified the shit out of it when bringing it to the states but the original quote is,dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum”. This translates to “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am.” Which to me, makes a huge fucking difference. This quote becomes even more mentally reassuring.

To me, to doubt is to struggle. And to struggle is to think. To think is to exist. And some days, existing is all I can really manage to do.

On Monday I watched the sun rise and set from my bedroom, unable to leave. On Sunday a painting on the wall in my living room fell and it made the entire living room unsymmetrical. This caused the room to feel empty and in turn for me to feel empty and kinda stressed me out. Correction, I would hyperventilate any time I was in the living room. My quick n’ easy solution to this was to not exit my bedroom at all because then I wouldn’t ever need to enter my living room. I developed a horrible migraine and proceeded to blow off friends, overbook plans to compensate blowing off my friends, and entirely compromise my intentions. This made me feel self-hatred and unworthy of my friends. Which made me feel alone. And this mental bullshittery visits me every week, and which day of the week that is has always just been kind of a toss up.

I know what you’re thinking: Just fix the fucking painting. Put it back up. Stop this.

Which is kind of my point. I really wish that it was easier for me to do the things I know I obviously could do. I wish that solutions were as simple for me as they are to other people. And these solutions range from putting a painting back up on the wall to finding a licensed professional to discuss my symmetry anxiety with.

I’ve decided to treat this blog as a silent “Supervisor” pushing me to find a therapist. I’m currently in the market for a therapist which feels like just the beginning of the struggle (Can I find one? Do they accept my insurance? Can I afford it? Is the therapist I find even going to be someone I can actually talk to? Will I be able to keep trying if the first one doesn’t work out?). But this is a struggle that I’m recognizing as a necessary step toward progress.

To doubt is to think, to think is to exist. I have doubts on doubts on doubts about my success in the therapeutic realm. But as it stands, I’m still here. I still exist and I want to take steps to ensure that I’m not simply “existing”. I want to live.

I don’t have all of the answers. In fact, I would say that I have very few answers when it comes to battling depression, anxiety, and mental illness. However, one of the very few answers I have found is this: creation is the opposite of depression. Creating content, friendships, solid foundations, a knitted pair of socks, anything. Creativity puts a pretty strong muzzle on the ferocity of depression.

In creating this blog I’ve found something. I don’t know what that quite is yet, but I feel good. And whoever is reading at this point helps with that. I feel less alone in you and less alone inside of this boxing ring of a brain.

Thank you.

The Nacho War of 2016

I moved to Chicago in the fall of 2016. In the year that followed the Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump was elected into office, and some dude on Twitter got Wendy’s to give him free chicken nuggets for a whole year. But screw all of that, this was the year that I lost 100 pounds.

This is the story of how I lost all of that weight in a year. I’ll lead by explaining that it was by no means a traditional weight loss journey and I’ll never post before and after photos due to the nature of the change. This is not a traditional success story.   

My move to Chicago was triggered by a plethora of bullshit in my life that made me need a hard reset. I had ruined friendships, hated my job, broken up with a boyfriend of four years and was generally a god damn disaster zone. I had burnt most bridges in my life so I figured I might as well just move to the city that also happened to burn down and have to completely rebuild itself again.

And since I was starting over from scratch I felt like it was finally time to address the whole self-hatred feature of myself.

I have never been thin. I wouldn’t even describe myself as thin at this point in my life. I never acted like I had any issue with this but don’t you worry, I loathed myself. I didn’t connect at all to the body I was encompassing and since I knew I hated my body, I assumed most just agreed with me. But being bigger was also exhausting, mentally and physically. I didn’t want to avoid roller coasters. I didn’t want to only be able to buy clothes from certain stores. I didn’t want people to avoid eye contact once they realized I was sitting next to them on a plane. I was moving away and wanted people to be able to really see how better off I was.  

So, from the start, my motivations were a bit fucky.

Moving to the city caused me to have to drive less and walk more and at the time I was working at a high-volume Starbucks. My ass was on the move on the daily and I didn’t even actually notice the first 20 pounds I lost because I wasn’t focusing on that. I was focusing on making enough money to afford all of the ubers I’d taken out of anxiety of learning Chicago’s transit system (there is still a contact in my phone with the name “Lashunda The Uber Driver Who Offered To Teach You Transit”, we’re snapchat friends now). But other people did notice my weight loss. People who saw me after I had moved were super articulate about my progress which was everything that I’d wanted.

Well, everything I thought I wanted. I learned a few things in the process of attempting a massive lifestyle change. Here they are:

It is one thing to be super competitive with others (which I am), it’s a whole different mental fuck show to compete against yourself.

Losing 20 pounds happened on accident. Every pound I have lost since then has been a conscious effort on my part, and prior to recently, an unhealthily conscious effort. There was a lot of fear on my end at the beginning of the journey. The fear of stopping what had already started, the fear of gaining any of it back, the fear of people not noticing further progress. And regardless of everything I’ve ever learned about the dangers of obsessive weight loss (yo, I was an RA in college), that awareness didn’t stop me from how competitive I was against myself to keep losing weight, if I didn’t lose at least 2 lbs every week I had failed and had to do better next time.

But when you’re competing against yourself and you’re not playing fair, it’s impossible to win.  

Disordered eating is just called an eating disorder.

Boy oh boy, don’t we love denial?

I never wanted to develop an eating disorder and I will always insist that I didn’t intend for that to be the consequence of my actions. However, once I knew that I had developed all of the tendencies of someone with an eating disorder I did little to change it, which cancelled out any original intentions I may have had. I figured that since I didn’t look like I could have an eating disorder I didn’t actually have one. However, unlike our current political climate, eating disorders don’t discriminate.

I justified it with thoughts like “I’m not trying to starve myself, I just have never bought groceries literally ever and I work at Starbucks, I never have time to eat just coffee coffee coffee” or “I just forget to eat sometimes” or “Oh, I just don’t get hungry before 8 fucking pm at night.” And people noticed, I never ate in front of anyone except for my coworkers who saw that I only ate string cheese and hard-boiled eggs (jesus, how obviously I hated myself). They would bring it up, concerned but hesitating to say that I looked like I had an eating disorder. And I would LAUGH and respond with the same thing every time:

“I don’t have an eating disorder! There is a difference between having an eating disorder and disordered eating…”

Update: Uh, no there fucking isn’t.  

Compliments end up sucking ass when you have an eating disorder.

I don’t want anyone to regret complimenting me on my weight loss. A lot of people embark on healthy journeys to improve their lives and sense of well-being and I applaud them. People don’t just assume that you’re a starving piece of garbage that also feels like garbage that has recently looked lustfully at food in the garbage because they’re simply that hungry.

Anytime I got affirmation of my body changing I felt like I was on top of the damn world. I would over-fill with joy that my “non-intentional” efforts were being seen and appreciated. Guys began to look at me way more. I was able to easily borrow clothes from others, a perk I never had. I attended a wedding of some college friends and it was rarer to not have someone bring up my weight loss. And I was fucking ecstatic.

Until the next day when I was hungry. Because regardless of the well-meant words sent my way, my brain very easily twisted them into insults to my past self. They thought I looked great now so I must have been hideous before. Which led me to the next thing I learned:

It’s easy as pie (that I felt guilty for eating) to acquire an eating disorder but really fucking hard to stop.

Duh, right?

I had been on both sides of the equation. At the end of college, I was at a weight that was scientifically unhealthy. I was big and not in the “curvy” way, it was in the “barge” way that does suggest lifestyle changes. The weight I lost was good to be gone. The way I lost it was not.

And now I was close to what I had wanted since I was in elementary school. I remember thinking, “When I’m sixteen I’ll finally be a normal size” and then that age just kept going up and it made me nauseous to hear myself think, “Once I’m out of college, that’s when I’ll be a normal size.” I couldn’t keep doing that. My weight loss was a healthy suggestion and I took the suggestion when I moved to Chicago and then lost weight. I became obsessively horrified of the idea of me going back to not being able to borrow clothing from friends or having to feel shame for my size.

Then the conditional thinking came back. “Once I’m out of the 200’s, I’ll actually feel happy because I’ll be normal.” And then came conditions for 190 lbs, 180 lbs, 170’s and so on. Wasn’t happy. Wasn’t ever happy and never had a healthy idea of what “normal” was.

And what did “normal” even mean?

“Normal” is not having an eating disorder, I can promise you that.

When I would spend hours researching weight loss strategies a fact that I would always come across was that people who lose weight from starving themselves almost always gain the weight back. Which was BAD news bears. Couldn’t let that happen.

So then I was mentally trapped. I didn’t want to starve myself forever, just today. And tomorrow, and the next day but that was Tomorrow and Next Day Jessie’s problem to deal with. Ultimately however I wanted to eventually be “normal” and “happy” so that I could eat again because it sucks starving yourself all the time. You feel like shit, bruise easily (I have frequent-faller miles), and worst of all, nachos became an enemy. Except, nachos are my ally and I was fighting an uphill battle against my happiness.

I also wanted to be a healthy weight because it’s nice to not be overweight. So for a bit I would think “I’ll only starve myself till X lbs because if I gain weight back after eating normally again I’ll still be X lbs.” This was the most dangerous mindset I ever had and luckily was also the most short lived.

I stopped all this nonsense after a fight with a friend that I’ve since stopped speaking to. In explaining why the friendship was ending (because she was stealing from me) she responded with a lot of *fun* stuff but decided that her closer would simply be, “Have fun with your eating disorder.” It was the first time someone had actually said it and it was one of my closest friends at the time. Those were her last words to me. I was hurt, insulted, ashamed, but more than anything else, I refused to allow anyone to use something like that against me ever again. Was the motivation to change the best? No. Was the change still needed? Yes. So maybe I owe her one (even though if I saw this girl again I would only owe her a punch to the face).

In April, I signed up for a gym. If I was going to be annoying obsessive about something I was going to do it in a way that allowed me to still eat. I slowly started eating more and more, eventually to the point where I’m now eating at least 1,200 calories a day. I would obsessively read articles about exercises and calorically dense foods to moderate instead of the best ways to suppress hunger pains. And day by day, I stopped being as ashamed of myself because I had less and less to be ashamed of.

I also became happier in general (left shitty friends and a shitty job and was doing the “life” thing as recommended) and realized that the eating disorder didn’t have as easy of a host anymore. It got harder to keep up with the whole only eating 300 calories a day thing. And very slowly but continually, I meandered my way out of an eating disorder.

So in a way, I guess I’m the most “normal” I’ve ever been.

Being happy with my body isn’t easy but too bad, it’s recommended.

I’m proud of myself for being at a healthier weight but have a very deep understanding that it could have been accomplished in a healthier, happier, different way. I’m happy that I’m at a healthier BMI, but I resent how I accomplished it. Moral of this blog’s story: Don’t do what I did.

I’m still regulating from the past year of self-abuse. I still fear the scale’s number going up. At times I still panic if I know I ate more than 2000 calories a day or if my schedule prevents me from going to the gym. I still have days where I don’t want to be seen at all because I don’t like the way I look. I still have to force myself to eat some days.

I’m still working on redefining what “normal” means for me

*********************************************************************************

A lot of these stories will be me figuring out what “normal” means for myself. Things happen in our lives to us and around us that can prevent us from feeling connected to others. I’ve felt that way a lot in the past, sometimes because I chose disconnection and others times when I didn’t choose disconnection. but I’ve noticed that the less I think of my own suffering as “typical”, the less I feel ostracized or “not normal”.

There’s also very little appeal to being normal nowadays. It’s more about being happy and while I may not be able to control if people think of me as “normal” I can at least control how much I allow myself to be happy. Choosing happiness is by no means easy.

But again, nothing easy is all that worth it, right?

Except asking for extra chicken on any plate of nachos I’ve ordered in the past 4 months. That has been easy as hell.  

MY CULT MADE ME DO COMEDY

So my cult got busted.

Not my cult of course, I lack the organizational skills of the classic cult leader. But the cult I was in, that? That was recently busted. And by busted I mean exposed to the entire OSU campus.

xenos

Which is actually PERFECT because for the first non-introductory post on this page I felt it might be important to mention that for the majority of my late childhood I was a heavily active member of a mega-church in Columbus, OH called Xenos (pronounced Zee-nos) Christian Fellowship.

And it’s also the reason I started stand up comedy.

To clarify, it’s not the only reason I do stand up. But all of the reasons that I enjoyed being a bible-thumping “eternally thankful” mega-evangelist carried over into everything that I love about stand up. I loved it so much that I was trapped in Xenos’ system for six years (and hope to be trapped in the stand up comedy system for even longer). Xenos is the ultimate example of me turning a horrible part of my life into a humorous joke. My first stand up set I ever performed was centered around my time with the cult.

Further clarification: Stand up comedy is not a cult. My former cult is a cult. Second City is a cult, but for the most part they have yet to be truly busted.

I originally wrote the entire story of Xenos and my time there. Some of that will be included in this but in reviewing it I realized a few things. One being that it was 11 fucking pages and none of you would read all of it, regardless of how weird it is that I was told I’d want to have sex more if I shaved my pubic hair. It was also just really sad because you essentially just follow me through a time in which a manipulative mega-church made me feel guilty for struggling with depression as a teenager soooooooooooooooo…it’s happier now!

However, to understand this blog post you need to understand Xenos. I know that it is highly probable that currently active members may read this post as I am still facebook friends with a lot of them. So to clarify: I am in no way trying to attack anyone directly at Xenos and I am very aware of the fact that Xenosian individuals do not agree that it is a cult. I remember fucking hating when people claimed it was cult and having verses on verses of scripture to rebuke it. I am not trying to judge or disrespect anyone’s religion. I think that religion is a beautiful thing that is only ever ruined by the people that do something bad with it. Like The Crusades and you know…Xenos.

But what is Xenos? Hard to explain without getting into the 11 pages I wrote but I figured the best way to describe Xenos is like this:

The Lifeline of the Perfect Xenosian Individual:

You’re a tiny tot at Oasis, Xenos’ elementary school (they have elementary schools). Once you get older and get to hang with the big kids you join a junior high “cell group” which are group teachings separated by boys and girls that meet once a week at the home of one of the group leaders and also collectively at “CT”. “Central Teaching” happens across all age groups. (To visualize, just imagine yourself in a huge sweaty gymnasium with a hundred or so other people your age learnin’ about Jesus.)

Once you grow out of that, you get to go to high school CT and graduate from cell group to “homechurch” which is exactly like cell group but now the boys and girls can hang out, sorry, fellowship together.

And when you graduate high school and go to college, guess what happens? You go to OSU or Columbus State Community College (or some other Columbus school because those are the closest colleges to Xenos), choose a college homechurch (because you didn’t really get to choose the college you went to, right?) and then based on which homechurch you choose you move into that homechurch’s ministry house which is just a regular 3-4 room apartment in Columbus, OH that typically houses up to 8-10 men or women. Note: OR, not and.

People typically live in the ministry house until they get married, at which point they move out and begin their lives with their partner (who is almost always another jag from Xenos). You grow up, have kids, and sign them up for Oasis, Xenos’ elementary school.

The cycle continues. You die and supposedly go to Heaven. The end.

And now that you (kinda) understand the organization I committed myself to, without further ado:

WHY MY CULT MADE ME DO COMEDY

I now love being the center of attention.

It should be noted that not only was I in a cult, but I was really fucking good at being in a cult. And thats because at all times I love when people have to pay attention to me. I love when my words carry a message. I love commanding a room. And the first rooms I ever commanded were inside the walls of Xenos Christian Fellowship.

My competitive nature and need to be the center of attention benefited Xenos a lot. I invited literally all of my friends to Xenos (unlike my open mic nights). If I made a friend in any way, I hit them with the, “Hey, well what are you doing Tuesday night? There’s this thing…”

Teachings were occasionally led by non-leaders if the leaders felt you were “spiritually qualified” so you bet my ass was teaching other people my age about Jesus. I converted people in Pizza Hut parking lots, I led group prayer in a cheap microphone (JUST like an open mic), I prayed and prayed and prayed (also happenin’ at open mics) and everyone I loved in my life was a part of Xenos too and probably because I invited them there (UNLIKE open mics). There are people I brought to Xenos and converted that are still at Xenos today.

Teaching people about the good ole Dude Upstairs was my fucking heroin. To this day I have yet to find something that truly makes me feel as pumped as I did after saying “Amen” to a crowd of a hundred high schoolers. The closest thing to it? The feeling I get after a set goes really well. That shit makes me feel even better and has filled the hole of narcissism that Xenos left behind.

I want followers.

I hope one day for the content I create to reach millions of people. And in those millions I want to have people so dedicated to me that I might as well call them disciples. That way, I can have disciples again!

When I first learned that people from Xenos practiced discipleship the only context I had for what that even meant was that I was preeeetty sure Jesus had disciples? Like, the guy that people claimed was the son of God, he had disciples. But no, I guess regular old sinning-ass shmoes can have disciples too. Or at least, thats what Xenos believes.

At Xenos, once you become a real person with real formable thoughts and feelings (around your “troubled teen” years) you’re asked by one of the group leaders to be discipled. And what that means is that once a week you’ll meet your Discipler at the Panera on State Street to read the bible, talk Jesus, and discuss your entire life with them. It serves functionally as a sort of therapist within your homechurch that helps guide you through your spiritual journey. Also, a person to track every fucking move you make in and out of Xenos.

Once you are “strong enough in your spiritual journey” (proven that you ain’t no rookie at converting high schoolers as a high schooler) you can begin discipling others too. Once you’re in college, you realistically have a Discipler and a disciple (or two! Or three!) of your own as well. Think of it kinda like how you’re chosen to be someone’s little in a sorority or fraternity. Except your big is statistically someone way older than you and is never going to offer you jello shots.

I had three disciples by the time I was sixteen. I had three people that were the same age as me meeting me at libraries, Dairy Queens, Starbucks, Paneras “YOU NAME IT, I’LL BE THERE”, luggin’ my $60 NIV Study Bible to serve some sweet sweet spiritual seance. People went through their entire high school lives based on how I felt it would appease God the most. Man, I wish people still did that!

I attempt to make lemonade out of steaming piles of shit.

To be completely honest, I was in a cult so long because I was Xenos’ perfect target.

I was a bit rougher around the edges compared to a lot of the other kids at Xenos. My parents did not ever invoke religious thought into me because they didn’t spend a lot of time giving a shit about anything that they didn’t need to give a shit about (rent, food, and definitely not fucking mega-churches). So I was there on my own account and really wanted to be there. I preferred being there to being home so I poured all of my time into it and Xenos loved it.

Xenos benefitted from my horrible circumstances and in a perfect world, the imperfect world will hopefully benefit from my updated set of horrible circumstances. I have only ever wanted to do the best with what I have and unfortunately when I was like, 12, the best I could do with what I had was accidentally join a cult that would manipulate me to expand their organization for the next six years.

I quit Xenos after there was (11 pages of) emotional abuse from the elders in response to me opening up about the struggles I was having in high school. I was depressed due to a multitude of factors (and also because I would later learn that “depression” is just a part of my factory settings) and spoke of those openly with church members. They scolded me for feeling that way and told me that God was my only pathway toward happiness. And when you’re sixteen and pray your ass off all the fucking time and nothing changes sometimes things get worse. Sometimes you start cutting yourself and the elders say that you must not be praying enough. Sometimes you’re told that you would feel normal if you spent more time with God. Sometimes God doesn’t feel like enough and you feel like you should be punished for feeling that way. Sometimes the church does punish you for feeling that way and takes away your teaching rights. Sometimes you spiral because you’ve been told for years that you’ll fail without your church but don’t feel good enough for your church. Sometimes you leave abruptly, as abruptly as you began and immediately lose all of your friends. Because they truly believe that it is morally and ethically wrong to still speak to you. Because you are living “of the world” and should be treated as such.

That is what Xenos is and what Xenos represents. And I am thankfully out of it. 

“Living of the world” and in a pile of steaming shit and struggle and suffering that we all are chugging through has been way better for me but also harder for me in certain aspects. I still think of Xenos all the time and still have intrusive thoughts of fear and guilt for leaving. But I’ve moved on, made new friends, made more mistakes, and have had more life experience in my pinky finger than I ever would have had if I had stayed in the cult. And maybe shitty things have happened that might not have happened if I stayed, but I do still attempt to make the most of the shitty stuff. I learned how to do that because of what I had to do after leaving Xenos. 

*****

The day after I was sexually assaulted for the first time, I went to an open mic I had been frequenting on Monday nights here in Chicago. I was empty, my insides felt gauged out by a complete stranger. I went to the open mic and immediately put my name in the lottery. I didn’t feel like I had anything to lose anymore due to how robbed I already felt of my ability to feel normal again. I was called relatively soon after putting my name in the bucket (WHICH HAS NEVER HAPPENED AGAIN) and stood in front of a room of comics attempting stand up comedy for the first time. I performed a set I had written about Xenos. And it killed. It went really well and I remember feeling as I walked off the stage. Just feeling again and I was so shocked by the fact that I could still do that.

I don’t perform as much I want to but comedy has always been what’s motivated me forward. I don’t want to have to look back on Xenos with shame and trauma. I want to look back on it as a hilariously ridiculous place that allowed high schoolers to openly smoke cigarettes after teachings to attract the troubled teens to want to stay (“Best church ever! Sick!”). I don’t want to look back on the unfortunate times I’ve had here in Chicago and allow those to ruin everything that Chicago still has to offer me.

I don’t like when the shitty things in my life remain as that…shitty things. I prefer when shitty stuff elevates and can become platforms for me to make others happy, even if I maybe have to take a lot of shit for that to be able to happen.

Making others happy through humor is all I have ever wanted to do. And while I may not still be in the hyper-evangelical mega-church Xenos cult, I still am eternally thankful.

Screen Shot 2018-07-28 at 11.37.12 AM

Take note: my very confident and even more permanent choice of “eternally.thankful” for my Facebook URL. I remember my 15-year-old self thinking, “Well… This SHOULD always be true…”

***

If you have any interest in reading my entire 11 page story, I’ve submitted that to the website created to spread awareness of the organization and hope that it will be chosen for the index of stories. Visit xenosisacult.com to learn more about the organization and read stories like mine from all over Columbus, Ohio.

Thanks for reading.

Turning Twenty-Unfourtunate

I hate my birthday. I won’t act like this in front of you at all, in fact, I will remind you that its my birthday and the last thing I want is for you to hate my birthday. No, no, no, I hope you love the day, so much so that you maybe even want to give me something to prove it. I’ll take whatever gifts you give and love them and appreciate them but ultimately? I hate my birthday. I always have.

Many of us experience seasonal depression during the cold winter months of the year. I would say that my mental illnesses leave no room for seasonal exceptions. However, my birthday month has always been a point of heightened depression and anxiety for me. Over time I discovered that the reason I’m like this is simple: Your birthday is the one day of the year in which you can tangibly see how others feel about you.  How many people care about you. How much they care about you.

And listen, I have been on the wrong side of history with this irrational way of thinking. Statistically, if you care about me enough to even be reading this I have possibly (probably) missed a birthday of yours. Which, by the way, my bad. Happy (belated) Birthday on my Birthday!

Because of this way of thinking, I always confront my own mortality around this time of year. I’m forced to look at what my relationships have become, what my life has become, and maybe the hardest of all; what I have become. Which if you’re just tuning in to who the hell I am: I’m 24. I’ve been a Chicago resident for two years. I like making people laugh and love feeling the company of those around me. I’m so happy to be where I am with the people I am with and pursuing my passions in the comedic realm.

But the past two years has been the hardest time of my life and I’m very tired of not talking about it. This would be the time in which “TRIGGER WARNING” usually flashes up on a screen but I don’t know how to do any of that fancy mumbo jumbo. Regardless, I’ll attempt to be a bit more transparent with you all.

To scratch the surface, “best friends” have stolen from me. My possessions have been vandalized, leading me into financial turmoil and debt. My parents divorced after my father’s drug addiction finally took its toll on my family. I explored the wonderful slipping slide of disordered eating. And in the midst of this, I was raped twice in the same year, six months apart. It was two strangers that I haven’t seen since and not for lack of trying to find them. I have told only the people closest to me that felt the effect of the incident. And now I have told all of you and I wish it wasn’t something I had to tell. I wish it was something no one had to tell and I feel for anyone reading this that understands what I mean by that.  

On multiple occasions I have felt lower than I have ever felt and wanted to die simply because I was terrified of a life in which it could possibly get any worse than what I had already experienced. I was very angry at being alive and felt every second that I was still here. I didn’t want to stick around for anything that could be worse. The thought of possibly experiencing worse continues to gives me complications daily.

But hey, I moved here to be funny, okay?

When it comes to writing and performing comedy I often find myself in a mental debate of  “How am I supposed to write jokes and be funny when my life is just…..not?” And the way I initially addressed this concern was with silence. Total withdrawal from my passions as a writer and comic and actual human person with friends. Life just wasn’t funny anymore, as you can imagine. 

And would you believe it? My life continued to be horrible! And very not funny. Very lonely, in fact! Maybe worse? For sure, worse! Whaaaaaaaaat?!?

When I came to Chicago I was armored in my vulnerability and made friends and experiences I’ll never forget simply because I opened myself up to them. I’ve been hurt along the way but regardless of everything that has happened, shit still manages to be funny sometimes. When I’m vulnerable, anyway.

This blog is about a lot of stuff but it is mostly about vulnerability (and italicized points, apparently). It’s about my past and future experiences here in Chicago. Some of it will be sad, I imagine. Most of it will be funny. More than anything, this blog is proof that sadness and comedy can co-exist and are actually pretty balancing roommates (…more than Liz was, anyway. Blog post to come).

So now I’m 24 and I’m forced to think of everything I still have. I’m still alive and sometimes that feels like enough of a victory, regardless of how many time its also felt like a punishment. I regret nothing about moving to Chicago, I do not blame this city for what has happened in it. I don’t regret the people I have spent this time with. I don’t regret my choice in wanting to create comedic content and be a comedian.

My only regrets are all of the times in which I could have done something that could have been great but didn’t because of my fear of being vulnerable. Didn’t do anything because I felt weak, hesitant, and alone. I feared looking unsuccessful in a world in which anyone reading this would be able to relate to how I feel. And ultimately, my fear of admitting this: That I’ve wasted time believing that my sadness had to stop me from my ability to be funny.

Who knows what I could have gotten done with all that wasted time, you know?

Like I said and in conclusion: These stories will be funny. These stories will be sad. Some will maybe confuse you (and probably me). Regardless of what they may be, they will be very me. Doing something, anything with what I have been given. That way, maybe 25 will maybe be a little less unfortunate.

Let’s find out, shall we?