Mental Health: Location, Location, Location

A lot of people probably think I live some sort of fabulous life in New York City.

While I’m very privileged to live in this gazillion dollar city and grateful to live rent-free in my in-laws’ house, my and Rick’s makeshift living situation isn’t a sexy get-up. ;) Of course, we chose this life, me not working so I could fully focus on school.

More important to note than a shared living space as newlyweds, though, is that inspiring geography doesn’t alleviate the same bouts of depression that would strike in the suburbs or rural areas. It’s easy to romanticize New York, and imagine my days filled with strolls through Central Park, coffee in hand, before stopping off for a chic lunch at the Met followed by 5pm cocktails at the Carlyle. But, let me tell you, that’s not how most New Yorkers’ lives go down. It’s an exhausting city of grit that requires peak professional performance and constant reinvention and innovation to survive in every sense. New York City is like the ole duck simile, calm on top of the water and, out of sight, furiously paddling below the surface.

I think a lot of New Yorkers have to regularly sell the city to themselves – why do I live here, again? Subway smells, $80 takeout dinners from an average place, traffic, the general filth. In the burbs I’d have beautifully done hair and makeup, get into the car, and arrive to my destination still coiffed. Here, I have to tie back my hair lest I arrive with knots and sweat at my neck and consider footwear to accommodate the weather. This ain’t no Carrie Bradshaw game, and there’s a reason why heels are referred to as “cab-to-curb.” They’re only feasible if you’re getting picked up in a cab, dropped off at the front door of your destination, and the same on the way back home. It’s impractical and most certainly not a frequent occurrence for the average New Yorker. When Rick and I get wagged along to a black tie event with my father in-law, we of course take pictures because it’s a rare, effortful occasion. I never want to sell a farce.

I’m proud of having lived in New York City for eight years as of next month (yes, I count the 18 months I lived in D.C. as part of my time in NYC because I was remotely planning a wedding and up here constantly), but not for the reasons you may think. I can officially call myself a New Yorker after ten years, and I can’t believe it’s coming in hot. But, I’m not proud of living here in an “I’m fabulous” type of way. I’m proud of having made it this long because it’s been a lesson in survival. I moved here at 23 and would go home to Texas as often as I could. In those first couple years I’d cry on the plane every time on the way back to New York. While the city excited and inspired me, I was in survival mode in terms of finances, profession, finding a good friend group, and safety.

My apartment in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn had a MC across the street and one night I woke up to gunshots right outside. I had to stay below the windows in case a stray bullet flew into my apartment. I’d be aggressively cat-called on the street and even followed. My apartment was bare- a used, frameless bed resting on old linoleum and thrifted sheets covering my windows. One time, when I was still days away from getting paid, I ate cornbread for three days because that’s all I had in my cupboard. I know my parents would’ve wired me $20 if I’d asked, but this was on me. NYC was my game.

One night it’d gotten too late for me to safely take the train out to my apartment, so I had to splurge on a cab. Just months after my brother Alex’s latest foray into booze-fueled tragedy, the cab driver stared at me in the rearview.

“Do you like to party?” He asked, leering at me, a smile playing on his face.

“Uh, I guess… do you?” My eyes shifted out the window. The area we were driving through was rough.

“Yeah. Do you like to drink? I’m drunk right now.” He laughed.

I noticed his eyes were bloodshot. “Are you serious?” I re-surveyed my surroundings and considered which option was better- getting out of the cab in a strange, scary neighborhood and find my way home, or hoping this drunk cab driver would get me home safely. I could call 311 to report this guy, but it wouldn’t change my current situation. Although I kinda didn’t want him to know where I lived, I decided to stay in the cab. The speed limit was 20, or something, so I hedged my bets. “That’s not cool.”

Finally, we turned onto my street.

“My friend’s house is right up there, first building on the right,” I lied.

“You should stay with me and party,” he smiled, still leering, this time over his shoulder at me.

“Yeah, no thanks. You shouldn’t be driving people around drunk. Seriously, it’s not cool.”

I opened the cab door as I paid so he didn’t get any ideas about driving off with me hostage in his car. I raced up my building stairs and bolted through the exterior door, interior door, and then my apartment door as quickly as I could. I closed my door and triple locked it, then began my usual inspection of every potential hiding place for a person in my apartment. I finally considered myself safe, but my shoulders never fully relaxed. They’ve been tense since the day I moved here, to be honest.

“We’re just not gonna tell your dad about this,” my mom said when she visited.

“This is where you live?” My friend Betsy asked once, mouth hanging open, eyes darting between my “curtains” secured by pushpins.

After “Frankie” got shot (I know his name because it was being screamed over and over), I received the following note from my landlord:

Bailey,
You’ve been a great tenant and I know you’re a woman who lives alone. I understand if you need to break your lease to move to a safer place, given the recent events.

“You live in that building? I wouldn’t feel comfortable if my daughter lived there, either. Let’s get you out of there,” said the man who leased my next apartment to me. Relief.

My New York City living situations have been precarious and thread-bare, barely scraping by, filled with strokes of luck and kindness: a friend letting me sleep on their couch my first ten days, bosses moving me for free, landlords who seemed to truly care (unicorns in this money-hungry, ruthless city). So, while my living situation isn’t ideal, I’m at least safe in my latest blue-blooded cocoon.

me and my friend Marlon, the friend who let me sleep on his couch when I’d first moved to NYC six months prior, at my 24th birthday brunch

It doesn’t matter where I am, though, when it comes to being at the mercy of the storm swirling around inside of my head. A suburban Wal Mart is the same thing as Bergdorf Goodman. When you have mental illness, public school is boarding school. Bed-Stuy is the Upper East Side. Depression is depression, an equal opportunity head occupant.


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: New Year Goal Mapping
Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 1
Mental Health: Spiral


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Mental Illness + Disaster Fatigue = Stagnation on ‘Roids

Coming at you live from a bad day. I slept for 12 hours, too exhausted to get up when my alarm went off after the generous, allotted ten. Could-barely-lift-my-head-exhausted. My contact case, typically in the bathroom drawer, was on my nightstand when I woke, indicating some type of night time ~activity~ AKA sleepwalking. I assume moving around unconsciously contributes to what seems like unqualified exhaustion, but why the hell am I on the move in the middle of the night? I don’t think risk of night rearrangement of toiletries is on ashwaghanda’s side effect list.

I’m so upset and feel so helpless about what’s going on in our world. I thought the mildness of New York’s last winter was a fluke, but I haven’t seen any snow in the forecast. Even when there is a rare flurry, it’s been too warm to stick. In Australia, 500,000,000 animals are suspected dead as of two days ago, and I can’t bring myself to google current numbers. The ecosystem is up in flames, and we’ve got an evil Twitter tyrant wiping out an evil military tyrant, causing the populations of their respective countries, America and Iran, to spiral into a hole of fear, worry, anxiety, and devastation as we collectively presuppose the unrest to come. People, often low-income, choice-less people, will die because idiots are at the helms.

I was emailing with an Iranian friend, checking in on her and her loved ones given the latest. While she and I go to school together in NYC and she and her husband are currently in Dubai (where they live), her parents and family are in her homeland, Iran, and these are just regular people subject to the whims of a violent general like Americans are regular people subject to the whims of the erratic star of The Apprentice.

All over social media are horrific images of what’s happening in Australia and begs for money to help the country stop the destruction, somehow, and salvage what they can. My $5 feels like a drop in a bucket that couldn’t extinguish a single match. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, sitting on an estate of billions of dollars, sent their thoughts and prayers.

As a privileged white lady, I have the luxury of logging off all social media / internet for a day, or a week, or whatever, and my world seems unchanged. I know that if I do something like that disconnection, though, I won’t forget that the chaos is still seething beyond my bubble, that the skin of my safe cocoon isn’t and wasn’t ever as thick as I thought. It’s all connected, and it all matters.

Political, environmental, or even just compassion fatigue paired with the spoils of mental illness is a real doozy. I crawled out of bed and the sun started going down in every sense, orbitally, mentally, emotionally, motivationally. It’s hard for me to sit here and write out this worry and devastation and, again, I’m privileged that I’m able to even process and record feelings while so many others are in survival mode.

It’s come to the point that sitting still makes me a part of the problem.

But, I’m mentally gridlocked, and a helpless, infuriating stagnation has descended upon my days. It makes me want to go back to bed, but I’ve got a book to write. We’ve got a world to fix. I’ve got an in-laws’ house to move out of. I’ve got a carbon footprint to offset. I’ve got golden retrievers from the Yulin meat festival to rescue. I’ve got word impeccability to employ and practice. I’ve got guilt about my homeless brother to carry. I’ve got black Americans to champion. I’ve got the exhaustion of feeling like an ant pushing a rock uphill to overcome. I’ve got the worry and very real consideration of whether it’s a good idea to bring a baby into this world to ponder. I’ve got people in my life who don’t think climate change is real, or believe it’s simply biblical destiny and are complacent. I’ve got the reputation of being alarmist, of being too sensitive, of being a snowflake. I’ve got major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder. I’ve got too many plastic bags, too many things I feel guilty about dropping into a landfill-bound trash bag day after day. I’ve got the knowledge that the U.S. military does not properly re-assimilate or care for veterans, resulting in proportionally more deaths by suicide, and I have guilt that the people who read this for mental illness knowledge, community, or solace are getting none of those things today because I’m having a crisis.

And I’m one of the lucky ones.

There are days when I don’t know where to turn, how to cope, or how to move forward. Today is one of those days. Today I feel damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

I just finished reading Lindy West’s The Witches are Coming, and near the end she addresses this very fatigue with a droplet of hope in regards to all the exhausting current issues we face.

Build it into your day. Every day you call. Every day you write a letter. Every march you march. Tax yourself. Protect your community. If you’re waiting for a grown-up to come fix it, stop. Be your own grown-up. Be your own president.

[…]

“…this world is beautiful and worth saving. Do not despair. Despair is the death of action. Go, act, fight.”

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West, p. 231

There is always a day, crystalline, tantalizing, diminishing behind us, that was just before the point of no return. When we knew, but we didn’t act. If only we could go back. Well, today is that day. Tomorrow is that day.

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West, p. 257

I’m surrounded by rich, white people. I am a rich, white people. My surroundings are disillusioned and inappropriately calm, and I do not accept it. Sometimes I need a day to grapple with both my own demons and current events, and while today is that day, tomorrow is another, another chance to restart, redirect, recalibrate, refresh the fuel to fight.

cousins @ 2017 DC Women’s March

Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Productivity
Mental Health: Suicide Looming
Mental Health: Spiral


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Ho Ho HELP

It’s no secret that the holidays incite a wealth of emotions. While some people recall happy memories to the tune of Bing Crosby and anticipate this time of year, there are others who’ve lost someone in the last 12 months and this is their first holiday season without them. Some lost a loved one around this time of year, so the season’s warmth and glitter feels irrevocably tarnished every year after. Some have negative relationships with family that have led to stressful, heartbreaking reunions or estrangement. Some families suffer financial stress so crippling that the holidays become a huge stressor opposed to a joyful time. Some have a homeless family member and wonder where they are. Are they alone? Are they warm? Do they know what day it is? Do they care? Are they using?

Of course, I’m thinking of my brother today as my family celebrates Christmas. My brothers and I were fortunate to have magical Christmases growing up. My parents struggled to make ends meet but, somehow, Santa’s sack always mobbed deep. I remember the three of us all sleeping in one room, me on my twin, Alex on my trundle, and Duncan on the floor (poor Duncan), waking up too early, and then running out to rip into the carefully arranged spread. Our tired parents would snap photos and capture us on the camcorder.

that’s Keith in the corner (REM voice)

This was long after we’d grown out of Santa, by the way. (Alex and Duncan blew that for me in first grade.) We just liked hanging out and sleeping in the same room on Christmas Eve. Any other day of the year, no. Hell no. Christmas Eve, yes. After all, no one knows you as well or as long as your siblings do so, when we’re honest with ourselves, they’re who you want to share the special, formative childhood/adolescent moments with.

stuntin’ on these dorks

One by one, we aged out of adolescence, and year by year, things became increasingly difficult around the holidays. A couple days before Christmas in 2007 Alex announced that he and his partner were having a baby, and that they were moving to Florida. That day. That was the first Christmas after he got his leg amputated and Duncan and I had dropped out of college and spent 54 days in the hospital by Alex’s side. That year had been like taking an emotional bat to the knees. They loaded up and drove away and, as we watched them turn out of the cul-de-sac, I supposed it couldn’t get much worse than that.

a brother’s love is a brother’s love

Five years later, we all visited Alex at his rehab in December, two months after he’d shot himself in the head. With his stitched up head, Alex cranked golfballs into the abyss of a big, dry field with Duncan. At the same visit, Alex told my mom in group therapy that he’s never forgiven her for his repeating first grade. (One of his favorite pastimes has always been vilifying our mom.) On his final day, there was a ceremony performed involving a symbolic bridge-crossing as a graduation from the rehab. He left, and soon went back to using. I supposed it couldn’t get much worse than that.

crackin’ himself up w that terrible stache

But then, there’s now.

The last “normal” memory I have of Alex is Christmas 2015, a chaotic span of a few days in which a dear aunt died, my mom and I were going for the others’ jugular, and Rick proposed to me. That Christmas “break” was inflammatory in its juxtapositions. It was also during this time Alex told me and Duncan in a moment of seriousness he’d been assaulted as a child. Usually he just deflected everything. He offered that information one night while riding in the front of Duncan’s Tahoe in his nice jeans, henley, and cologne. The next time I saw him he was living under the bridge.

A tightly wound pragmatist, I’ve long since ceased believing that things couldn’t be worse. I keep getting proved wrong, like emotional whiplash. My dang neck hurts. So, instead, my whole body remains tense as I steel myself for the worst news all day, every day. That also makes my neck hurt. Plus, I get bonus knots in my shoulders and back. I can’t win! Either way, my neck hurts. Somebody pass the Tito’s.

Alex was there when Rick proposed to me on that Christmas Eve four years ago, giving hugs and congratulations, but he never made it to the wedding. There’s a beautiful photo of me and Alex hugging in celebration of the proposal but I can’t find it anywhere. I’m gonna risk bordering on cringe and say it’s poetic that, at least until I can find those photos, that formative moment lives only in my brain and is fading. My brother and my husband, two people who’ve informed and continue to inform so much of who I am, were like ships passing in the night. They’ve spent maybe a few hours together total, but that pivotal day was part of that tiny overlap.

One thing important to note is that years when sad things happen around the holidays conjure a special appreciation for years that are uneventful (in a good way). High highs, low lows. My family’s got ’em. Maybe yours does, too. Or maybe it’s all good. Or all crap. The point is, life isn’t a Lexus ad. And if it is, I think that’s very neat, and would you give me a ride in your Lexus?

You may have noticed that, like my life, this post has gone off the rails a bit! So, I’ll wrap it up. Like a Christmas gift. It is 3:34am. Help.

Anyway, I wish you all a merry Christmas, a happy fourth night of Hanukkah, and happy holidays to all, whatever you may celebrate. If you’re going through something during this often chaotic season, I’m sending you warmth and a virtual hug. I wish I could give you a real hug. Take care of you.

I’ll leave you with a bonus photo of me in Christmas skants.

Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean on the cover of a magazine

Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Communicating Mental Unrest
Mental Health: Finding the Glow
Mental Health: Disoriented


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 3 (Final Installment)

This final installment of The Sad Clown makes me cringe. It’s dramatized, saccharine, and all of it’s true. There is some blood, and there are some guts. So, proceed accordingly. As always, thanks for being here.


After Ashley broke eleven bones at Alex’s hand when he drove them into three telephone poles, I painted her toes while she was immobilized in the hospital. By freshman year of college my nail polish collection had expanded beyond clear, and I used an iridescent purple, the same color as her candy painted Mustang GT that had just gotten ripped to pieces by the jaws of life to get my brother out of the driver seat. He was meant to be dead on arrival to the hospital, but he wasn’t ready to leave life yet. He had many more years of traumatic offerings for himself and his loved ones. “And many more.” It was like the classic birthday wish gone awry.

Alex’s femur was sticking out of his left thigh and his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. He was losing blood too fast. He’d knocked out the power to an old folks’ home and his helicopter chariot landed in their lawn to whisk him away. Awakened by the disturbance, old people began to shuffle outside, wind blowing their hair off their necks and foreheads as they saw a helicopter leave them to reconcile the remnants of the bloody, powerless disaster.

“Bailey, wait.” My dad grasped my shoulders, bracing me physically and emotionally for a disconcerting sight. “The way Alex looks is extremely upsetting. But, just remember, it’s your brother. It’s just your brother.”

It.

[read full piece here]

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 1
Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 2
Mental Health: Painting with Words


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support here. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 1

Holy mackerel, it’s December. I have two and a half weeks left of school, next semester is my thesis semester (no classes), and then I graduate in May – unreal!

I’ve been scrambling to do a lot of EOY things, ticking tasks off the list that’s ever-growing around the holidays, but of course finishing the semester strong is my top priority item.

Monday was my brother Alex’s birthday, and on that day I also turned into workshop a whopper of a meditation on the magic, tumult, hate, and tenderness inside of our childhood and adolescent relationships. My workshop instructor had challenged me to make Alex 3D on the page, likable. If you know him, you know that liking Alex is a hard thing NOT to do. So, it was with ease and sadness and joy and nostalgia I further painted him on the page, giving him the breadth and complexity he deserves. I peel back some onion layers and then begin to muse on when I can remember things going awry.

As I discussed in my previous mental health post Painting with Words, content that is most publishable/likely to end up in my book will be posted behind a small paywall on Patreon. As always, thank you all for being here and for your interest in reading the stories I have to tell. It means so much to me!

Read Mental Health: The Sad Clown here.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: In Motion
Mental Health: Finding the Glow
Mental Health: The Aftermath of the Birthday Hullabaloo


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support here. Your contribution means more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.