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.

Mental Health: Painting with Words

Hello, good people of the internet! If this is your first time visiting Bummed Out Baker this post will be weird for you, so I suggest you start here and return to this post another time.

I wrote all day, continuing to draft my thesis on my immediate family, primarily Alex, and how the five of us have dealt with mental illness, addiction, and their devastating effects over the years.

In September I was instructed by a successful author to not post things I intend to publish elsewhere on my blog as it invalidates the content to agents and publishers, which is a shame. It means so much to me to connect with people who are going through similar circumstances and/or are seeking emotional intelligence via empathic reading online. Community, grace, and understanding are imperative. I also appreciate that sometimes it’s nice to read about someone else’s life so you don’t have to think about your own. It’s dark, but it’s true.

I’m buried in work for school and am considering a rebrand to Bummed Out Bailey, as traffic indicates you all like these narrative, topical posts much more than my recipes. ;) However, turning out consistent content is important to me, and I have every intention to continue doing so through the rest of school and, frankly, wherever my and Rick’s lives take us.

With all of that being said, I want to alert you to my Bummed Out Baker Patreon, a place where you can access my more intimate (and apparently most publishable) content behind a small paywall, a contribution as low as $1 a month.

I’ve never addressed this front and center on Bummed Out Baker but I had the idea when thinking about what to post today after I emerged from my deep diving day of writing. It’s an awkward topic but an important one. See, writing is my art and passion. I paint with my words. It’s a joy, and I’m so grateful to be able to pursue my strength and dream. However, the emotional excavation required for high-impact pieces does take a toll.

If you feel Bummed Out Baker (soon to be Bummed Out Bailey?) has brought value into your life, I’d be deeply honored if you’d consider contributing to my Patreon. I feel like I sound like a creepy spam email, but every contribution truly helps me to continue dedicating so much time to the site and turning out content while also ensuring I still have a way to connect with those who’d like to read my more intimate pieces. It’s likely those on Patreon will see the first echoes of what will end up in print in a beautifully bound book. I can already visualize it, both in my hands and displayed on Keith and Staci’s mantle with a spotlight on it for all to see. I’m putting that out into the universe!

When you contribute, you validate my art and the stories I have to tell. I cannot explain how much it means to me, and I send you all the warmest thank you for your consideration, and a huge thank you to my three OG contributors. You’re my heroes.

Bummed Out Baker Patreon

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: 31 Birthdays
Mental Health: Mourning the Living
Mental Health: My Lowest Point in Eleven Years

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.


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support here. Your contribution means more 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, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Becoming You (This is Not a Maxi Pad Commercial)

It was really hard to become who I am. I haven’t become this quirky, socially nuanced person by accident, but by egregious trial and error, painful experience after painful experience that either taught me something about myself or others. Usually both.

I’ve been left out, talked about, forgotten, isolated, ignored, belittled, offended, laughed at, and called both “weird” and “crazy” (not in the fun way). Despite knowing these things hurt so badly, I’m guilty of having done the same things in return at times. Now, if any of these inconsiderations or meannesses happen to me, I understand that the agitator probably has something else going on, past or present, informing their behavior. It doesn’t have anything to do with me. When I’ve been the mean one, it doesn’t have anything to do with them. I read The Four Agreements, a gift from my dear friend Brennan, when I was 21 and it changed my life. Not taking things personally is one of the key tenets in the book. This concept is hard to grasp in junior high, in a sorority house, or at 31. Sometimes even in your 60s, according to my mom.* I believe emotional sophistication is being able to read a room, be kind, and sincerely apologize.

When someone excludes you or makes you feel like crap, allow it to sting. Allow it to singe your mind so that you remember to never treat someone else that way. I recognize that this takes fortitude, and not everyone has the emotional bandwidth to allow such grace. Some days you might have it in you, other days you may not, and that’s okay. That’s what being human means.

Something that happened a lot in past and surprisingly still happens well into adulthood is me walking up to people having an informal conversation, and no one welcoming me into the fold conversationally or in terms of body language. It makes me feel awkward and dispensable, and I don’t ever want to make someone else feel that way.

I went to two weddings last summer a couple weeks apart and this one woman was at both. At both events, she approached the group I was talking with and immediately interrupted and started a new conversation with everyone else without ever introducing herself, including me, or even looking at me. The first time she did it I thought it was an accident. The second time she did it I reached my hand out to introduce myself, and afterward she still continued as if I wasn’t there. One time, during a cocktail hour, she literally boxed me out of the group. It was so bizarre it was almost funny. And I don’t believe it had anything to do with me.

So, whenever I’m in the throes of unpacking the latest season of Succession, or whatever, with someone and another person walks up, I turn my body to welcome the person into the group and catch them up on what we’re discussing. If they don’t watch Succession, I ask if they have another well-produced soap they like to get lost in. There’s always a way to fold someone else into the conversation. When you’re having a casual conversation, there’s no reason why another can’t join. If you need or want to have a more private conversation, then… do it in private. :)

This just got very Debrett’s. Allow me to recalibrate.

I find that I invest so much of myself in the feelings of others that it then begins to deteriorate my mental health and quality of life. PLOT TWIST: I’m not a martyr but actually a narcissist, meaning I’m so concerned with the feelings of others and how it reflects on me that I then ultimately make the original situation in question about me, which helps no one. I’m working on it.

I’m not saying allow yourself to get trampled. In an appropriate moment, pull a person aside and let them know that XY hurt your feelings because XY. How they respond will speak volumes. Remember, you can always “unfollow” people IRL.

There is a balance, and you can’t prioritize others over yourself constantly. Sometimes you just need to be you and not feel like you have to apologize for it. I’ve gotten better at this with age and its slowly shaped my personality. Also, as I’ve gotten older I’ve been better able to curate those I surround myself with as dear, trusted friends. I identify particular boundaries in others because I’ve broken them in past, hurting them, hurting me, my pride.

It can take a lifetime to get these things right. Sometimes, even a lifetime isn’t enough!

It took me years to assert the things I need to be comfortable and high-functioning because I was afraid I was going to upset someone else or I’d be talked about behind my back. For instance, for my mental health I need a wealth of time alone and good sleep, which means I need my own bed, ideally in my own room. (I’m thinking of trips with family and friends, here.) Instead of pretending I don’t need those things to appease others or manage others’ perception of me, I say what I need and, again, how others respond speaks volumes about them and doesn’t actually have anything to do with me. We all have our “stuff,” our particularities. By asserting what I need I’ve let down a wall to let others feel safe doing the same.

What’s your learning curve look like? Any horror stories or big victories?

TL;DR I’m who I am because I embarrassed myself and learned and got my feelings hurt a lot and learned. How about you?

*Not that my mom is in her 60s. That was just her making an educated guess…

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Compassion Fatigue and Hyper Empathy
Mental Health: When it Comes to Someone’s Well-Being Ask, Don’t Assume
Mental Health: Finding the Glow

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.


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support here. Your contribution means more 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, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.