Last week I posted The Sad Clown: Part 1 on my Patreon, a piece of writing that some distillation of will likely be in my book. The content this week is particularly vulnerable with a brief mention of molestation and is also behind the small paywall ($1/month) to access. Every bit helps me continue putting time and effort into running Bummed Out Baker, and reader support is so, so cherished.
This week I continue the series with The Sad Clown: Part 2 with an excerpt here on Bummed Out Baker and the remaining portion on Patreon.
Thanks to meds and confidence that
comes with age, by senior year I’d started to balance out what had been four
years of a mental illness rollercoaster. On the first day of my volleyball try
outs Alex, then 20, had stayed up late the night before in Paint on our
computer making a caricature of me running on the track with a water bottle and
CD player in hand. He glued a photo of my head on top of the shoulders and
scribbled “good luck Belly!” at the top. He taped it to the bathroom mirror for
me to find when I got up at 6am, and I kept it for years.
Despite ripping cigarettes constantly, Alex had accompanied me to the high school track to train that summer before try outs. He’d take a long drag and toss the butt to the side, only to smoke me in our mile run. He’d been the star of his select soccer team, but inexplicably quit at 13. He’d been the type to wear Fanatical Soccer shirts with “soccer is life. The rest is just details” emblazoned across his back. My mom thought he was molested by an associated adult, or something… [continue reading]
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As I’ve said before, please know that before I get on Bummed Out Baker to write I always prioritize working with my family and psychiatrist to stabilize myself. I wouldn’t be on here if I hadn’t first confirmed my safety.
Last Wednesday I wrote an ode to a friend who recently died by suicide. While the following thoughts were further propelled by her devastating passing, I did not include these thoughts in last week’s piece because I wanted that to only be about her. She deserves that space, and so, so much more.
Something I do here on Bummed Out Baker is challenge mental health taboos. I crack open topics that are historically only talked about in hushed tones among one’s closest, if that. A lot of people don’t even like to acknowledge the same things I openly discuss, for one reason or another, but I’m trying to break a barrier to benefit us all. I want to remind readers of my purpose so my words aren’t confused with sensationalism or seeking attention.
I’m petrified suicide is going to sneak up on me and take me by surprise.
As I wrote about in Mourning the Living, in July I had the strongest ideation I’ve experienced since 2008. It led to paranoia-fueled psychosis and an emergency trip back home to New York. In August, my cousins’ cousin, who I knew in passing, died very young and unexpectedly. It completely wrecked my cousins, aunt, and uncle. The whole family was gutted. Then, in September I got news of my high school friend, K, a death by suicide.
I feel like, since this summer, suicide has been circling me, like something stalking its prey. First it was manufactured in my head. Then, death happened a few degrees away. Then, suicide happened closer to me. It’s coming closer and closer. Is a best friend next? Is a family member next? Am I next?
“I’m scared of suicide. I’m trying to understand the mentality of people who’ve passed, what exactly they were thinking that led them to their ultimate decisions. I want to know, because I want to be on guard for it,” I mused to my psychiatrist. My eyes darted across his book shelves while I tried to piece together my thoughts. “Because the only people who could identify that mentality would be, well, people who were successful in their attempt. Death is so final, you know?”
My psychiatrist’s brother died by suicide, the same way my friend K did. I’m empathic to a crippling degree, and was wary of triggering my own psychiatrist by working through my thoughts. He assured me that while of course sometimes it hurts, he actually thinks it helps him to muse on the subject, for us to spit out what feels like nonsensical feelings and then rearrange them into shapes of understanding.
I continued. “It’s not like we can ask the people who are gone. How do I know if I’m getting close to the edge? It’s not like there are built in alarm bells. I just can’t fathom a feeling worse than how I’ve felt, but apparently it exists. I just can’t fathom the mentality…”
“Imagine having your worst day, every day, for five years straight,” he offered.
I imagined living July 18, 2019 day after day for five years, and in that moment the great opacity of suicide began to quiver and dilute. In that moment, mercy and sadness bloomed bigger inside of me for those lost to suicide. The pain remains challenging to fathom, but the reasoning began to take shape.
I try to remain on high alert for myself and for my family, but, if we’re being honest here, sometimes that’s not enough.
In college I had an English professor who likened those who thought suicide was selfish to people who wanted someone else to walk miles every day in shoes that were tearing up their feet into a bloody, blistered mess, in order to make them feel better. The person labeling suicide as selfish is actually, perhaps, the selfish person. If someone you love is in pain that immense…
This is not provocation, but food for thought as we collectively work to understand something so horrific.
My thoughts have been fed, shuffled, and remolded as I continue to contemplate what taking your own life means. Trying to gird myself against self harm feels like choosing a random place to reinforce a protective fence when, actually, the threat is infiltrating from another area. The efforts can feel like a shot in the dark, and a feeling of hopelessness can manifest.
It’s shrouded in mystery, the whole thing.
I feel like most everyone has lost a loved one to suicide and, while this is a topic unfortunately many may relate to, it’s not one I can tie up in a bow on some idle internet post.
One of my favorite Bright Eyes songs is No Lies, Just Love, which recaps the beautiful arc of one person’s ideation, presumably that of Bright Eyes’ singer, Conor Oberst. If you prefer to listen, see video below. If you prefer to read the lyrics, which read like a prose poem, I’ve posted them below the video. If you prefer to do neither, that makes me laugh and I admire your candor. Just keep scrolling.
It was in the march of the winter I turned seventeen That I bought those pills I thought I would need And I wrote a letter to my family Said it’s not your fault And you’ve been good to me Just lately I’ve been feeling Like I don’t belong Like the ground’s not mine to walk upon And I’ve heard that music Echo through the house Where my grandmother drank By herself And I sat watching a flower As it was withering I was embarrassed by its honesty So I’d prefer to be remembered as a smiling face Not this fucking wreck That’s taken its place
So please forgive what I have done No you can’t stay mad at the setting sun ‘Cause we all get tired, I mean eventually There is nothing left to do but sleep
But spring came bearing sunlight Those persuasive rays So I gave myself a few more days My salvation it came, quite suddenly When Justin spoke very plainly He said “Of course it’s your decision, But just so you know, If you decide to leave, Soon I will follow.”
I wrote this for a baby Who has yet to be born My brother’s first child I hope that womb’s not too warm ‘Cause it’s cold out here And it’ll be quite a shock To breathe this air To discover loss So I’d like to make some changes Before you arrive So when your new eyes meet mine They won’t see no lies Just love. Just love.
I will be pure No, no, I know I will be pure Like snow, like gold Like snow, like gold Like snow, like snow Like gold, like gold, like gold
I listened to this song over and over in 2008, indeed before my brother’s first child was born, to comfort myself during one of my darkest times. Maybe it’ll bring comfort to someone else now.
I wish I had more helpful words to offer, a step-by-step way to find peace with the irreconcilable. If you share my headspace or love someone who does, rest in the knowledge that you’re / they’re not alone.
Big, giant, internet bear hugs to anyone needing one today. Hugs are always on offer in person, too.
Thanks for being there for me. I’m here for you, too.
Writing through PTSD helps me name my feelings and heal, and I encourage you to share Bummed Out Baker with anyone you think may find it helpful or relatable. I work hard to create community and conversation around what are often painful topics.
Subscribe at the bottom of Bummed Out Baker to get my mental health musings and recipes emailed to you directly – Follow on Facebook for mental health articles and discussion – Follow on Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild.
If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
After all of last week’s hullabaloo, I heard from my brother Alex today. It was a welcome surprise. He called me from a Chicken Express to wish me a belated happy birthday and to let me know that he had planned to call on my actual birthday, but that he’d lost his phone. He said that he still thought about me all day on my birthday.
I accidentally declined his call today, and as soon as I heard his voice come through on the voicemail I called the number back without listening to the rest. I knew I had a narrow window of time before he’d leave the restaurant and that I had to call straight away if I was to catch him. An employee answered and, when I asked for Alex, I heard him ask “Is Alex still here?” to someone else, signifying Alex’s familiar presence to the staff there, and then the phone muffled and I heard the employee say “sister” and “birthday” as if he were justifying Alex’s use of the phone to another employee.
“Is that ayewunsennighthreesisate?” Alex rattled off my phone number.
We talked for a bit, the details of which I’m purposely omitting. It’s strange to live this saga in real time.
A hallmark of this blog is transparency for the sake of normalizing these shitty, hurtful family situations, but I also don’t ever want to be exploitive or disrespectful to the time it takes to simply process happenings. Basically, I will share what I can when I feel it’s ready to be shared.
Last Thursday I slept until 4pm. I was shocked when I sat up in bed and saw the clock – I’ve never done that before. I’ve been sleeping 12-14 hours a night, sleeping through alarms, waking up physically exhausted, unable to get out of bed. These long sleeps result in restlessness the following night, and then the cycle starts again. I’ve always been a high maintenance sleeper, meaning I require more hours than the average bear to be at my best functionality, but this is something else. I’m gonna talk with my psychiatrist about it on Thursday because, as I’ve discussed before, my mood sunsets with the day. Staying up late and then sleeping strange hours has not been good for the ole psyche.
As always, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to sort out my issues without the fear of losing a job or without feeling like I’ve failed my family. I know not everyone struggling with mental illness-related sleeping problems has this luxury. As a privilege check I want to openly acknowledge the rarity of my specific situation.
Are these Wednesday posts helpful? I aim to be consistent when I post so that readers can always count on new content each week, but am not sure of reader preferences. Please let me know.
Written on Tuesday, September 17, 2019.
To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker and get my mental health musings and recipes emailed to you directly, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website – Follow on Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild – Follow on Facebook for mental health articles and discussion – Follow on Twitter for sassy tweets and a sprinkle of nonsense.
If you or someone you know needs help right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.