Month: February, 2012

It Would Have Bitten Me

The first thing I noticed, once I parked my car and fed the meter with stray dimes and nickels from my purse, were the people meandering in and out of the red brick building.  I still had ten minutes left before I needed to go up to suite 407, so I sat in my car and watched three older women–walking separately and at different times–enter and exit the building.  I noticed them because each lady wore a pair of corduroy pants dyed some shade of purple.  No, it wasn’t the same woman; there were three of them.  No, they didn’t acknowledge each other.  No, I don’t know which women’s clothing store currently offers a sale on purple corduroy slacks.

I already had a weird, twisting feeling in my stomach, separate from the general anxiety and nervousness that accompanies me to interviews.  The morning felt weird, too bright, not cold enough even though the thermometer in my car red 25 degrees F.  I tried chalking it up to my nerves, and to the fact that this was my first interview after tons of applications spanning four-and-a-half months.  But it still felt off.  I sent Steph a text message, telling her I was worried this was all just a scam.  She responded that it sounded legit, that it was going to be okay.  So I turned my phone off, locked my car, and crossed the street to building 606.

I put my blazer on in the lobby in front of the bank of elevators.  I hate this blazer with a passion.  It feels bulky and over-sized.  I’m used to feeling like an elephant, or a stuffed sausage; I’m a big woman.  I always feel like I take up too much space.  Except when I’m in this blazer.  You might think this would be a welcome change, to feel small and shrunken and tiny, but it isn’t.  It makes me feel like a kid in an adult’s wardrobe.  I suppose it makes me feel weak and vulnerable.  I do not enjoy feeling weak and vulnerable.

After donning the dreaded jacket, I took an elevator to the fourth floor.  This is where the slight churning in my stomach began to grow stronger.  The hallways were well-lit as I passed suites filled with small law firms and a clinic.  But after turning the corner, the lights dimmed drastically, and it was almost hard to see.  There was a man standing across from a darkened suite, wearing a suit that fit him as poorly as my own blazer did.  He was holding a folder containing what I could only assume was his resume.

His name was Ivan.  Ivan was also invited to suite 407 for an interview at the small marketing firm that called me last Friday.  It was 9 AM by the time I reached Ivan in the dark hallway in front of 407, which is precisely the time my interview was supposed to begin.  Ivan looked sheepish; he had been waiting there, in the dark, since 8 AM.  His interview was scheduled for 8:30.

“This feels like a scam,” I said, trying to turn the locked doorknob before realizing that Ivan had probably already done this himself.  The suite was dark inside, empty.

“I hope not,” he replied, “because I came here all the way from west Baltimore.  My grandmother had to get up at 5AM to pick me up and get me to the light rail.”

My heart sank, and my anger surged.  What a waste of his fucking time, if this was a scam.  But I remembered that a woman named Lauren from the firm had called me that morning to confirm my interview time.  Why would they do that, if this was a scam?  And what would a scam achieve by luring two job-seekers to a darkened hallway, just doors down from several law offices?

I dialed Lauren’s number and was surprised when she answered. “You are in front of suite 407!  Okay!  I will send someone down.” I looked at Ivan and shrugged.  Five minutes later, a tall, young man with a scraggly beard and a pinstripe suit sauntered down the hallway towards us.  He gave a quick little wave and a punch of a smile before sticking a key in the doorknob of suite 407.

“You two here for the interview?  I’m Enrique.” He flashed us another punchy smile and pushed the door open, turned on the lights.  Ivan and I exchanged another glace before following him inside.

This was the office suite of the supposed marketing firm: a small reception area with a desk, some filing cabinets, four chairs for guests, and a huge, widescreen television.  Underneath the television, a shelf was filled with DVDs.  Movies.  My surprise only turned to shock when Enrique turned the television on and stuck a DVD into the player. Then he was handing us clipboards with resume forms on them.  We had to fill out our resume background, though Ivan and I had brought along our own copies.  I half-expected to see requests for my birthdate and my social security number, but there were none.  The synapses in my brain where firing at the speed of light, though, and I felt like I was standing on the tips of my toes rather than seated in the uncomfortable chair.  Under the home address section I wrote down false house and street numbers.

The DVD in the widescreen television loaded, and I couldn’t believe my eyes: Enrique had started playing the movie “Mean Girls”.  What kind of game was this?  I was still staring numbly at the TV when the receptionist entered.  Her name was Brandi.  She was teetering on high, high, high-heels, red suede, the same shade as her wool coat.  She had a friendly smile.

Brandi-the-receptionist saw me eye-ing the television incredulously.  “I can’t believe I get to watch movies while I work!” She said happily.  “Yesterday I watched “The Notebook”.”

Two more employees entered, both men.  Both wearing suits that looked as poorly tailored as the ones Ivan and I wore.  The first man was named Justice (I kid you not), the second was named Eric.  There were two other rooms in the suite: a small private office, and a conference room with a small table and several chairs.  Justice and Eric settled in the private office, barely saying a word.  I noticed a map on the wall of the office, showing the United States.  A few thumbtacks were pushed into it on the east coast.  I briefly wondered whether this was some sort of terrorist cell that was going to attempt to brainwash me into joining them.  I thought about telling Brandi-the-receptionist that I needed to go feed more dimes into the meter, so that I could make my getaway.

“Mean Girls” continued to play.  The main character joined the math club, sat with the popular kids, had flashbacks to her childhood in Africa.  I love this movie, but it sitting in the reception area of a potential employer, watching it, made me feel like I was having an out-of-body experience.  Who sets their office up like this?

Enrique came out of the conference room, and this is where it began to get really strange.  Brandi-the-receptionist looked up from her desk, a frown on her face.  She couldn’t find her white binder and black notebook.  Had Enrique seen it?  No, Enrique shook his head, but maybe Justice took it?  Brandi walked into the private office to speak to Justice, and Enrique quietly opened up a small storeroom behind the receptionist desk.  I watched out of the corner of my eye as he pulled a white binder and black notebook from beneath a heavy-looking cardboard box.  Brandi was still in the private office, her back turned to Enrique, her conversation with Justice drowning out the click when Enrique closed the storeroom door.  Enrique stooped down and I heard the small thud as he dropped the binder and note book.  He straightened, cleared his throat, then leaned down, a dramatic frown on his face.

“Brandi!” Enrique said. “I found it, it was right under your chair.”  He had a slight accent, a deep and raspy voice.

Brandi turned and laughed. “If it had been a snake…”

Enrique grabbed a pen off of her desk and turned to Ivan and I.  Whatever had just happened, it didn’t appear to be a silly gag, because there was no big reveal, no punchline.  Brandi sat down and opened her binder, and Enrique looked from me to Ivan.  I searched his face for any sign that he was aware I had been watching him.  Nothing.  He was just a big, creepy oaf of a man.  He invited Ivan into the conference room and shut the door.  They were in there for less than ten minutes, during which we could hear Enrique’s loud voice giving Ivan some sort of dull spiel.  I awkwardly watched the movie.  Finally, Ivan opened the door and grabbed his coat.  As he passed me on his way to the door, he gave me one last knowing look.  It wasn’t a good sign.

Enrique finally walked up to me and shook my hand.  His hands were dry, and though he looked at me, I could already tell he wasn’t really looking at me.  He invited me into the conference room and I took a seat with my back to the door.

At this point in an interview, I’m usually very, very painfully aware of my body language.  I’m a shy, anxious person, and when I’m nervous I tend to stammer or mumble my words.  So I am always acutely aware of how I’m physically presenting myself, and I usually do a decent job of it despite my nerves.

I felt none of that painful self-awareness this time.  I was already certain that this was a bust, and Enrique didn’t disappoint me.

He glanced at my resume, ran his finger down past my work experiences.

“What do you enjoy doing, employment-wise?” He asked.  He kept his eyes down, pen poised over the margins of my resume, printed on expensive paper and so neatly organized, clean, a painstaking work of administrative art.

“My experience is mostly office-related,” I replied.  “I’ve done a lot of office and clerical work, and I do enjoy it.”

“How well are you at communicating?” He scribbled something onto the paper.

I gave some sort of bullshit answer about communication.  I mentioned my previous volunteer work at a crisis and suicide hotline.  He raised his eyebrows and scribbled something else down. Finally, he looked up.  I noticed for the first time that one of his front teeth was badly chipped, and then of course I couldn’t stop staring at it.

“Do you have experience in marketing and promotional work?  Sales?”  Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly realized that there was another map of the United States in this room, too.  Instead of thumbtacks, the map was covered in sticky notes with zip codes written on them.

“No, I don’t.  Most of my experience is in office administration.” I wasn’t going to lie to him.  There was no job here.  I had nothing at all to lose.

He frowned and almost looked disgusted.  He shrugged his shoulders at me, and angrily asked, “Then why did you apply to a job to do promotional marketing?”

In any other situation, I supposed I would have attempted to remain polite.  But since I had already concluded this was a bust, I again answered truthfully, and bluntly: “I actually didn’t apply to such a job.  The job I applied for at your firm was for an office assistant position.  I didn’t apply to be salesperson or part of a promotional team.”

He was still frowning, but he nodded his head. “Yes, well, we filled the office assistant position last week.” He waved his pen towards the reception area. “Brandi.”

I remained silent.  Why bother pointing out that I had filled their job application weeks ago?  They were unorganized, forgetful, creepy.

“Well, I’m looking to fill five marketing positions,” Enrique continued. “This interview was just the first round.  The next step is to be observed while working with one of our program trainers.  I have an opening at 10 AM tomorrow, and I would like you to join us.  Do you think you can make it tomorrow morning?”

My smile was too-wide, a little triumphant, a teensy bit evil.  If Steph or my best friend or anyone who knows me at all had been in that little conference room, they would have seen the sarcastic glint in my blue eyes. “Of course, yes, I would definitely like to come in tomorrow!”  My voice was falsely cheerful.  I relished the lie.  After all the time they had wasted for me already, it felt good to know that I would hopefully end up wasting theirs.  I was also relieved that the interview was drawing to a close.

Enrique smiled back, and spread out his big, dry hands. “Do you have any questions for me before we say our goodbyes?”

“No, no, I’m good.  I’m just very eager to be here tomorrow,” I replied.  And I really did say that.  I’m just very eager to be here tomorrow.

We stood and shook hands a final time.  I saw myself out of the conference room.  I smiled brightly at Brandi as I walked by.  This smile wasn’t false.  I could tell, now, that she really was brand new, that she was a fresh hire.  She had a newly minted enthusiasm and flush in her cheeks.  She was on the phone, asking someone about which list of applicants she should be calling.  She covered up the mouthpiece to say goodbye.  I felt genuinely sorry for her.  If this was a scam, she probably had no idea yet.  This job wouldn’t be long-lived.

“Did he ask you back for a second interview?” She whispered.  I could hear familiar lines from “Mean Girls” playing in the background.  It all felt so surreal.  I realized that I didn’t even know the color of the carpet or the walls or the chairs.  Everything was a muddled, shapeless, blur.  Everything except for the television and Enrique’s broken tooth and Brandi’s excitement.

“Yes, he did indeed.” I replied.

“Fantastic!  It was nice meeting you, Katherine, and I’ll see you tomorrow!” Brandi waved goodbye and flashed her white teeth at me.  Enrique’s smile had been a punch; Brandi’s was a hug.  I felt wretched.

Ten minutes were left on my parking meter, so I sat behind the wheel and called my dad.  I stared at building 606 while I told him about what had just gone down.  It’s a fly-by-night sort of deal, he explained, and quickly agreed it was a scam.  People get a second ‘interview’.  They are then invited to go through the training program to become a ‘marketer’ or ‘promotional agent’ or whatever buzzword Enrique and his cohorts decided to use.  But wait, there’s a fee for the program!  Before you think it too outrageous, don’t worry: the program is highly rated and will guarantee you a job in marketing.  It’s a one-time fee.  Everyone goes through it at this firm, even ‘higher ups’.  Only some of this is speculation on my dad’s part, because the business’s poorly developed website confirms that all employees go through a rigorous training program.

I’ve gotten a lot of emails and a couple of telephone calls from ‘businesses’ that I later confirmed, through Google, as similar scams.  Come in for an interview, and then end up signing up for a training or certification program that you will have to pay for, with some sort of vague, off-the-record guarantee of a job.  But given the unorganized state of the marketing firm’s application process, as well as the office suite and how new and unkempt it was, I could tell this was a brand-new gig.  That explains why I didn’t find any red flags on Google.

I’m disappointed that I was roped into a bad deal like this, but at least I got out of it right away.  I would never sign up for a program from a ‘potential’ employer that I have to pay for.  Most businesses, if they require new employees to go through training or certification, pay for it themselves and/or send the employees to accredited programs.  But while I might know better than to put down money on a scam like that, a lot of people don’t.  It’s not because they’re foolish or unintelligent.  People are fucking desperate in this economy.  Any seemingly good news is fantastic news, and it’s easy to make mistakes, to lose your common sense in frantic hope.

After I talked to my dad, I drove over to my girlfriend’s work to meet her for lunch.  I told her everything.  She said calming words.  I only shed a few stray tears.  I was angry for a while, but now I just feel sad.  I’m sad that all that hope I had over the weekend is gone, and I’m sad for Ivan, who wasted even more time and money than I did getting to the interview this morning, and I feel sad for all the people confronting these scams and  being drawn into them.

A silver lining appeared near the end of my day, though: when Steph got home, she sat with me and made me write an email to the partner of an ad agency that interviewed me twice last fall.  I basically got the job, but then the job was cancelled.  I got the impression that he was impressed with me, so Steph convinced me to check in with him and let him know that I’m still available, should a new position open up.  Almost right away, I got a very positive, enthusiastic response from him, thanking me for my email and telling me he was impressed with my initiative.  He forwarded my email to his partners, and promised to get in touch with me in the next couple of weeks to let me know how it’s going with the position I almost had.  This is just enough good news to cancel out the shitty morning I had.  Everything has balanced out, I suppose.

And now all I’m left with is this long, strange story, a cautionary tale to anyone applying for jobs: scams abound, people can be so lousy and cruel, and you are not alone in your dogged determination to secure employment in this messy economy.



Toes Crossed

So much can change in just a few days.

My last post was a long complaint about job-hunting.  The countless job applications, resumes, cover letters, dead ends.  But now I’m nervously preparing for an interview on Monday morning at a marketing firm!  What a refreshing change, hahaha.  I am keeping my hopes in check because this is just an interview, but I’ve at least got my toes crossed.  Tomorrow I will try on my suit and attempt to put together a nice business professional outfit.  I am even considering picking up some makeup at the pharmacy.  I lost almost all of the makeup I owned (not a whole lot, but everything I could ever need) somewhere between moving from Virginia to Wisconsin last summer.  And anything I didn’t lose was lost between Wisconsin and Maryland when I moved last October.  Now all I have is a tube of red lipstick and some clear mascara.  I don’t really mind wearing makeup, but it’s usually not my thing.  I think I’ll wear a little bit to this interview, though.

And speaking of moving, that’s precisely what Steph and I are going to be doing really soon.  Really soon.  Possibly by the beginning of March, but hopefully not until the end of it.  The house we’re in now is being foreclosed on.  The landlord didn’t bother warning Steph or Leslie; we only found out because the bank sent the tenants documents in the mail about what is happening.  If it was just Steph, Leslie and I moving out, we would have at least a few months to figure out a new living situation.  But their friend Jenn is also looking for a new place and since it would 1) save us all a lot of money, and 2) get us a much nicer place, we are all (tentatively) planning on moving together.  Jenn’s lease is up at the beginning of April, so…we have very little time.


As you can imagine, this is very nerve-wracking, especially since I’m still unemployed.  So it’s hard keeping my hopes about the interview in check, because I really, really, really need that job.  And I have no idea when I might hear from anyone else.  Steph is consumed with anxiety, which she isn’t as accustomed to as I am.  Unfortunately, finding the perfect place for all of us is going to be difficult.  Everyone has specifications that they don’t seem willing, yet, to compromise on.  It’s the beginning of the search, but we have so little time that we are going to meet this week to hash things out.  People are requiring a backyard, air conditioning, a finished basement; people are stating we can live in this neighborhood but no, no, we can’t live in that one because it isn’t my scene or someone told us not to or I don’t want to have to drive that far to work.

And perhaps the worst thing of all is that none of these requirements are ridiculous.  They are all rational and important.  We have to have a finished basement for Jenn and her cats, since Cracker doesn’t get along with other felines.  Steph has been talking about central AC for years and the summers here are humid and gross and the idea of spending it in a house with four women, a huge boxer, and three cats with no air sounds horrific.  Akira (the boxer) needs a yard or a nearby park, and we have to be careful about choosing a safe neighborhood. All of these requirements (except perhaps the ‘no I can’t live there, it’s not my scene’ bit) are understandable and valid.  But they’re going to make the search more difficult.

I don’t have any requirements that I won’t compromise on because everyone else seems to have them covered, but I’m not going to lie: I am wishing hard for, with my toes and fingers painfully crossed, a washer and dryer.  Currently I visit my best friend and her husband every couple of weeks in West Virginia, and when I go, I lug all of our laundry with me to do at her house.  They assure me that it’s no problem and I am always welcome to their washer and dryer, but it still makes me feel like an asshole.  I’m looking forward to visiting my best friend again without the backseats and trunk of my car filled with dirty laundry.

In the midst of all of this, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if I was wracked with daily anxiety attacks and nightly nightmares, but I’ve been unusually calm about everything.  I’ve been focusing on helping Steph deal with her stress and anxiety, and I suppose I’m used to moving and things changing rapidly.  I am definitely worried sick about my lack of employment, but I was worried sick about it two days ago, two weeks ago, two months ago…it’s nothing new.  I’m definitely feeling a little down that Steph and I can’t afford to get our own place right now, but I’m not beating myself up about it.  I’ve been putting myself out there, applying regularly to who knows how many places, and if I’m not financially ready to help pay for a one-bedroom, I’m not ready.  There’s really nothing I can do about it, and I’ve accepted it.

Damn, I’m handling this really well so far.  I’m going to pat myself on the back, drink a glass of milk, and get ready for bed.

I live a riveting life, I know.  (That was sarcasm, okay?)


Job-Hunting, Desert-Dwelling, & Scorpions Under Rocks

This is going to be pretty brief because I need to get to bed, but I had to write something before turning in.

I just spent the evening applying for fifteen jobs.  Fifteen.

And I will probably not hear back from any of them.  I’m not being pessimistic, just realistic.  This is a normal job-applying evening for me.  I do it in bulk, which someone is bound to tell me isn’t wise, but I am desperate.  Des-per-ate.  Then again, so is much of this country.  Part of me wants to take solace in the fact that I am, without a doubt, not alone.  The job market is wrecked and there are a lot of people applying for each job out there.  But that really is little comfort at the end of the day, when I’m trying to fall asleep knowing that tomorrow will just bring more anxiety and more job-hunting.

I was pretty naive about looking for work.  I knew it would take a couple of months, maybe two?  And I’d apply to several places, and have a few interviews before anyone hired me.  I’ve heard all of the stories, of course.  People out of work for months, a year, over a year.  Filling out hundreds of applications and sending their resumes everywhere before they even get a nibble.  But I’ve always been lucky.  I’m good at finding little pots of gold.  Or stumbling over them, ha.  But it’s not happening yet.  I’ve applied and applied and I’ve only gotten two interviews (but for the same job) since I started in October.

I keep telling myself to stay positive, that this isn’t a reflection of my achievements or my self worth, and I know, rationally, that it isn’t.  Everyone is struggling (except, perhaps, that cushy 1%).  My anxiety inflates every little negative piece of sand and turns it into a desert.  There are several deserts sitting in the pit of my stomach right now.  Yep, I’ve always been a fan of arid climates, sand dunes, camels, scorpions under white-hot rocks and dried-out gourds crackling in your fist.  But not when they are located inside of me.

On the bright side, I’m planning on going to the library down the street to do a little creative writing tomorrow morning, and I’m probably going hiking with Leslie in the afternoon.  I hope Steph makes it, but she will probably be too tired and in too much pain.  She will need the heating pad around her neck and a much-deserved nap.

And, POOF!  Just like that, thinking about the sunshine and fresh air and dusty books that tomorrow promises, I feel so, so, so much better.


Tree Branches and Deep Ditches

****TRIGGER WARNING: This post includes discussions of suicide, self-harm/-mutilation/-injury, and mental illness.****

Things hit me like like a bullet train to the chest.  Emotions–good, bad, fantastic, horrifying.  I will be making a sandwich or taking a shower or pumping gas while Steph beats the steering wheel with her drumsticks and sings along with Sleater-Kinney, and all of a sudden, with no real warning, the wind will be knocked out of me and I’ll feel waves of some strong, potent emotion that I was not anticipating.

Lately, the emotional bullet trains have been good, positive, wonderful, exhilarating.  It’ll feel like someone has suddenly injected me with some sort of drug, giving me a wonderful, warm, comforting high.  This happens a lot when I’m around Steph, or I’m thinking really positive thoughts about how getting through last spring has made me a stronger person.  It feels amazing when I’m struck with these strong emotions, especially because I’m otherwise a big ball of anxiety.  The good moments of clarity and happiness balance out, if not outweigh, my anxiety attacks.

This is in stark contrast to last spring, when my depression was in full swing and was at the worst it has ever been (and, hopefully, ever will be).  I felt those bullet trains then, too, but they were anything but positive.  They were full of deep despair, hopelessness, and red-hot waves of self-hatred.  And even before things got really bad, they plagued me every day.  I would be sitting in class, listening carefully and taking notes, and then I’d glance out the window and see a few trees across campus and suddenly wonder how hard it would be to swing a noose up one of the thick branches so that I could hang myself.  I’d be driving in my car, on the way back to my apartment, listening to the radio.  Something interesting, low-key, non-threatening.  The Diane Rehm show, the classical station, one of my Harry Potter soundtracks.  And then I’d suddenly find myself considering the pros and cons of slamming my foot on the gas, steering the car off the road into a deep ditch filled with tall, solid tree trunks.  Or I’d be in the midst of a binge at home, eating large orders of french fries with a side gallon of ice cream and cake, lots of cake, and I’d get the urge to go to the drugstore and fill my basket with dozens of over-the-counter bottles of pills.  Add those to the large stash of prescription antidepressants and anxiety medications and sleep aids I had been diligently collecting for several months already.  I would swallow them all before my alter of food, and I never worried that someone would find my stinking corpse tipped over on the couch, my face in a bowl of clumped, dried spaghetti, vomit all over the offerings I had made to myself that hadn’t worked.  All the cake in the world, all the peanut butter cups, all the gallons of ice cream couldn’t up my dopamine enough to pull me through the night.  It had to be the pills.

But I was scared of pain, the physical pain I knew would come along with the suicide, the last agonizing moments before death.  I was especially frightened that I would begin feeling regret before I slipped away, that I would change my mind after it was too late; the drugs would make my hand too heavy, I wouldn’t be able to dial 9-1-1.  I wouldn’t be able to wiggle out of a noose hanging from a tree, I couldn’t eject myself safely from the car right before impact.  And I had concerns about my family, too.  Guilt, the guilt that eats me alive and has helped drag me down into the darkness, also helped keep me from killing myself.  I thought about what my suicide would do to my family, and the impulses would go away.  At least they did at first.  There came a point when I was rationalizing suicide so well for myself, using my interest in theoretical physics to spin crazy, radical assurances to myself that this was all meaningless, that there are an infinite parallel versions of myself, that I don’t matter.  I have existed before, I will exist again, over and over and over again.

So all that was left, really was the fear of pain.  And these sudden waves of suicidal ideation and darkness melded into my day and night.  It was constant.  So I took apart a Gillette razor and ran the thin blades across my left arm.  The underside, at first, and tentatively.  The bite was almost too much, but it was enough to allow me to feel the release that was inevitable afterward.  It became the only thing that would quiet my thoughts of suicide.  It would quiet ALL of my thoughts.  It would do what binging used to do for me: I’d forget everything, I’d become numb, it was almost like meditation.  I would focus on the blade, the cuts, the pain, the blood, and nothing else.  I usually felt out of my body while I mutilated my left arm.  Everything was surreal.  I’d stare at my arm, then let the cuts bleed for a bit while I stared at the television.  I’d binge at the same time, too.  I’d binge and cut and stare at the television, binge and cut and stare at the television, binge and cut and stare at the television.  I spent every evening for two weeks like this, before I was forced into the hospital by my therapist at the university.

The cutting, at its peak (which was also the end of it), was less cutting than gouging and stabbing.  The physician who examined me at the partial hospitalization program, who ended up reporting me to my psychiatrist and CSW, was stunned.  She held my arm in her hands for a long time before saying anything.  She works in a psychiatric hospital, so of course she has seen worse, but I think the fact that I hid the pain so well, that I dressed in a smart cardigan and clean clothes and washed hair and had rosy cheeks and a polite smile, threw her off.  I did not look sullen or severely depressed or suicidal.  I hid it so well.  Many people hide it just as well, if not better.  It becomes an art form.  **I want to say here that this is something you should always remember before you make jokes about shrinks or crazy people or asylums–you have no idea if you’re in the company of someone who is struggling in silence.

When I think about all this, the feelings I have are very complicated.  I feel fortunate, of course, that I’m still here, alive and well, recovering.  I still feel some shock, too.  I never would have imagined, in the midst of all of that crap, that I’d make it through.  I feel happiness, gratitude, relief.  I feel lucky.  But I also feel trepidation, a little  fear.  I say with confidence, all the time, that it will never get that bad again.  I will never slip that far down again; I have a real support network now.  I am surrounded by people who are aware of my past and present struggles with mental illness.  Each time I’ve gone to be treated, asking for help has gotten easier, so I am hopeful it will be even easier next time.  But that’s the thing!  Next time.  Who am I to say it won’t happen again?  I should be the last person on earth to make such a promise, since this has been happening on and off since my adolescence.  I should know better.  I do know better.  But even when I’m at my worst, there’s one emotion that never completely disappears: optimism.  Even when I was slicing my skin apart and watching the blood pool up from the fat and layers of skin and then down my arm and onto the paper towels I kept nearby, the stubborn little piece of optimism stayed with me, unyielding, like a rock in your shoe that you can never shake out.

Anyway.  I didn’t start this post expecting to write as much as I did, or to delve that far into my mental illness.  But I need to learn how to talk about all of this.  I won’t be able to heal, or to even walk into a therapist’s office once I have health insurance again, if I’m not prepared to talk about these things without breaking down.  Typing it is so easy, actually.  If I had to sit in front of someone and relay all of this information to them, orally, I wouldn’t make it through a paragraph without tears, or through two paragraphs without being choked into silence by the anxiety.  Not even with Steph.  But typing it all out?  A relief, truly.

I am hopeful, forever hopeful.


For a Somewhat Melodramatic Effect

I’m a restless lover of the seasons.  I love spring, I love summer, I love fall, I love winter.  But I’m always looking forward to the next season.  For instance, right now I’m dreaming about spring, young leaves on trees, the first time you hear a lawn mower murmuring in the distance on a Saturday morning, the smell of cut grass carried on cool, crisp breezes under the warm sun in the afternoons.  Rain on the concrete, dancing on the roof, falling in curtains while the sky flashes and rumbles during the first spring thunderstorm.  Lightening!

And I’m not religious, but I do get excited by all the Easter consumerism shit in the grocery stores.  Cadbury eggs!  Peeps!  Milk chocolate molded into a bunny shape, stuffed with peanut butter or caramel or marshmallow.  Everything pastel-colored, promising sunny mornings full of squealing children and barking dogs and soon, picnics and barbeques and thick, fluffy flannel sleeping bags spread out inside dew-covered tents.

My girlfriend, who loves cold weather, hates how mild this winter has been.  Whenever I mention how happy I am about the lack of snow, the mild, almost-warm days, the less frequent use of my dusty, musty winter coat, she makes some depressing remark about polar bears and melting ice caps and why don’t we just go ahead and mail flip-flops up north so that they’ll have something to shuffle around in once their icy tundra is lost.  She is dreading warm weather.  I am fantasizing about it constantly.

But, by mid-July, once I’ve had months of warm, then hot, weather, along with all the humidity this area has to offer (it offers a hell of a lot), I’ll be singing a different tune.  It will sound something like, “I can’t wait to pull my scarves out from under the bed.  I need my sweaters.  How many weeks do we have until the leaves begin to change?  I’m looking forward to pumpkins, holiday music, winter coats!  It’s so fucking hot!  I can’t wait for summer to be over, I’m absolutely miserable!”

I’m not exaggerating.  This is how it always goes.  I think I would be happiest if we had two weeks of freezing, snow-covered winter and two weeks of hot, sunny summer, and then we can split the difference between spring and fall.  But alas, that’s not how it works.  I suppose I should be happy that I get all four seasons.  I loved living in Abu Dhabi and Cairo, but while there, I did miss all the green, all the rain, the snowfall in the winter, the constant droning of lawnmowers during the summer in the suburbs.

Now that I’m really thinking about all of this, though, I’ve come the realization that I might be willing to trade the four seasons for a return to the desert.  Any desert would do, but I would prefer the Sahara or the Western Desert or the Libyan Desert, the bits of each that are in Egypt.  There’s nothing quite like camping out in a huge wadi, or stargazing from the top of a massive sand dune, the air still and pleasant, the sand cool like water under your body.  Yeah, take me back there.  Just for a few days.  I need to see the stars.

(For a somewhat melodramatic effect, I’ve included a picture of my visit to an archaeological in Fayyum when we lived in Egypt.)


This is all I need, really. Well, this and the camels and the wells and some really nice tents.

Burberry Leash, Matching Collar

Today was wonderful.  Got my ass out of bed by 9:30, went hiking with Steph and Leslie, and then we went to lunch with Steph’s best friend in Fells Point.  When we got home we went to the pond and fed bread and crackers to the ducks and geese.  Finally it was home to fill out job applications and watch trashy television.  I also finally took care of getting my car insurance policy transferred.  Yay.

I did all of this in lieu of going to Virginia to surprise my friend at her family’s new restaurant.  A few of my friends planned it, and I pulled out this afternoon when I decided that I’d be too tired to drive all the way there and all the way back.  There’s more to it than that, but that was my biggest concern.  If I had gone, I’d only just be getting home right now.  No good.  I’m exhausted, and I hate to think how I’d be feeling right now if I had gone.

No, my day wasn’t busy or hectic or stressful, but I’m still tired.  I’m filled with anxiety, and if you’ll humor me for a moment and imagine that anxiety as a pool of ice-cold water filling my body up to my chest, that’s how it always feels lately.  The water level never drops, no matter how I distract myself.  And it’s exhausting, so pushing myself to fill my day with productive and/or fun things can be difficult.  I wasn’t able to entirely curb my irritably and snapped at Steph a few times, which was unfair, but otherwise today was a fantastic, sunny (albeit a little chilly) success.

To expand on how my job hunting is going: URRRRRRRRRGGGHHHHHHHH.  It is a soul-crushing, ego-destroying, tear-inducing mind-fuck.  When I got to Baltimore, I was all about the office jobs, since that’s where 98% of my work experience stems from.  So I applied to office jobs, administrative positions, clerical work, receptionist posts, etc.  Then, about two months ago I relented and expanded my job-hunting to retail and temp agency positions.  And today I was looking for job postings for banks and airlines. 

I feel like I’m throwing myself in all directions, a piece of slimy but plump bait on a spiky sharp hook, but no one is biting.  In the beginning, when I first got to Baltimore and told my friends about my hunt for The Perfect Office Job, I was subtly accused of arrogance, accused of thinking retail and temp work as things beneath me.  That’s not true, at all, and I have never felt that way.  I was merely looking for work that I know I can do, that I have have experience in, and that fits my resume and background perfectly.  I have no retail experience.  None.  Nothing is beneath me, I will take almost anything at this point (I can’t be a barista, just can’t do it, no).  But so far, no luck.  The one interview I got was successful and the job would have been mine if, you know, the job hadn’t then be canceled.  But that was in early November.

If I didn’t have this lingering, stubborn little need to please my parents and impress them and do exactly what I think they want me to do, I suspect that my stress level would be a little less severe.  But hey, I can at least say that this little scrap of please-the-folks-drive is all that’s left of what was once a gigantic, all-consuming monster that helped to nearly kill me.  I take a lot of comfort in that.  Things could be eons worse.  I have a lot to be grateful for, starting with my amazing, supportive, and patient girlfriend (she would never call herself patient, but in this instance she has been almost nothing but).  I’m grateful for my mental health, imperfect but still a long, long way from the red.  I’m grateful that my family hasn’t been berating me for my decisions, and that all of my concerns about their opinions of me are in my head, rather than reality.  I’m grateful for my friends, old and new, especially my best friend.  I’m grateful to Cracker, too, for being the best kitty-daughter a meowmy could ask for.  And Leslie, of course, for being so damn accommodating to me and my 0 rent so far. 

I really am the luckiest bitch on the block.  ❤

(Although, I have to say that there is a lab down the street with a really fine Burberry leash and matching collar, who happens to have an owner who drives a brand-new Lexus.  I’ve seen said owner lugging expensive organic chef-created dog food into their colonial-styled brick house with the wood-burning stove and the classy bright red front door. So the lab, too, is one lucky bitch.)


On attempting to be realistic with goal-setting.

So that to-do list I posted yesterday was almost a complete failure.  I did wake up before noon, but I hardly think 11 AM is appropriate enough.  I did eat breakfast, sort of–an orange and some potato chips.  Better than my usual nothing, I guess.  And Steph and I went grocery shopping as planned.  That’s it.

That is three out of the nine things I had hoped to accomplish.  Oops.

I did realize as I wrote the list that it was probably a little too long.  I have a hard time with goal-setting; I tend to be a little overly ambitious, and when I don’t meet my expectations, I take it very badly.  This is a very small, casual, and non-harmful example, sure.  I’m not heartbroken that I didn’t sweep the stairs or clean my dresser off or call my insurance company.  But it does leave me feeling disappointed in myself.  And this behavior (overly ambitious goal setting, followed by not feeling satisfied or accomplished) has been a huge issue with me when it comes to self-improvement and academics and basically trying to be the person I think I need to be.

The solution?  Being more realistic.  I know this is what I need to do.  I have a lot of personal problems, and I feel good that I have a solution for this particular issue.  The only thing left is to actually follow through with fixing this.  So I think I’ll keep my to-do lists short for now, choosing no more than three (at the most) things to plan.  This is extremely modest and feels a little silly, but if I keep the list short and then complete it all, I’ll feel a lot better than I did at the end of today.

Without further ado, tomorrow’s to-do list:

  1. Call my insurance company.
  2. Return library materials.
  3. Take out the garbage.

That sounds doable.  And I know I’ll do more than that.  If it’s not raining in the afternoon and we have time, I’m hopeful that Steph and I will get to take Akira on a walk.  Maybe we’ll feed the ducks.