Mental Health: Excerpt from my Manuscript “Oh, Brother”

Vanilla

I wasn’t the only one suffering in silence in childhood. Duncan was, too, and like me he also didn’t register that something was actually wrong. Being the classic oldest child, he was impossibly hard on himself and spent the first 19 years of his life swimming against the current, assuming that must be how everyone lives. Being so close in age, he and Alex were best friends and shared a room for several years. When it was time for Duncan to set out on his own, my parents turned the dining room into a bedroom by installing doors on both of its open walls. One set of folding doors opened to the foyer, and the other into the back of the kitchen, far from the other three bedrooms and the rest of his family. Like with their looks, if my brothers had been swapped and Alex had been the one housed in the dining room, he’d still be making vitriolic jokes about it to this day: him being the rejected, neglected child. Mom’s fault. In true Duncan form, though, he now thinks his gastrointestinal maroon was hilarious. We still refer to his room as “steerage,” as if it’d been akin to the lowest fare ticket on the Titanic. Tough luck.

When he was in junior high, though, he hadn’t yet developed the sense of humor that would become so critical to his mental survival. He could hear the distant thud of me bonking my head on my pillow down the hall with my door cracked open as I tried to forget everything. Closer still was the dishwasher swishing just outside his door. Duncan would sneak into the kitchen and sit on the linoleum in the dark, knees to his chest. He’d peer through the 1980s built-in lattice work that separated the kitchen and living room to watch whatever our parents had on TV, likely something Plugged In didn’t approve of. Early on Saturday mornings I’d wander into Duncan’s room and crawl up onto his bed to watch cartoons with him. We all thought Duncan’s early mornings were just a part of him taking himself seriously, but he just wasn’t sleeping. He doesn’t remember a life without insomnia.

Duncan was a dweeb, but he didn’t know he was a dweeb. He was really into Dockers, braided belts that matched his penny loafers, honors classes, and his custom engraved bowling ball. He approached each bumper-free lane with a stoicism and precision typically reserved for people disarming bombs with one second to spare. His temper flared at the first sign of trouble, though, an inner rage that burned so brightly that none of us were ever ready for it. He hated himself for getting a B, and slammed down his remote control over and over if he lost a Nintendo game. Like, flee-the-room-out-of-fear remote-slamming. His childhood frame was feeble, though, and his flying fists were as threatening as wet spaghetti noodles. Holes didn’t begin appearing in the walls of our house until he was in his early 20s.

Alex would’ve called Duncan out on his weird mannerisms and dork tendencies if it weren’t for two things. One, he worshipped Duncan. Two, he really, really worshipped Duncan. When Alex decided in his preteens that he was unable to keep pace with Duncan academically or athletically, his cruelty disguised as humor began to form. When I skipped a grade, he was squashed between two siblings who seemed to effortlessly do what he couldn’t.

[continue reading on Patreon]

Warmest,
Bailey


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 Bailey:
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: The Gold of One’s Spirit
Mental Health: The Best Cure for Anxiety


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

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

Mental Health: The Best Cure for Anxiety

Coldplay, but make it millennial pink
Photo by Tonik

Hello! How are you? I hope you’ll… tell me about it, stud(?). Just like Sandra Dee, if we change everything we are to impress a person posturing in a letterman jacket who’s likely going nowhere in life, you will 1) fly away in a car, and 2) resolve all self-doubt personally, professionally, romantically, mentally, and spiritually. That’s the extent of my message this week. Thank you, and good night.

Welp, this post has already gone off the rails.

Typically, my Wednesday posts go up at 9am sharp, so the time stamp on this here post should be a strong indicator of how my week’s goin’. I’ve committed to you and myself, though, to post on Wednesdays, and I wanna keep that commitment. Which leads me right into my point this week. I read somewhere, perhaps in So Sad Today by Melissa Broder, that the best cure for anxiety is thinking of others.

It’s an interesting concept, isn’t it, to take focus off yourself to pull yourself out of the mental meltdown taking place or threatening to take place inside of your head. It’s like when I get upset with someone, like a stranger who cuts you off in traffic or is snippy at the sinks in a public bathroom for no discernible reason (can you tell I had a v specific encounter at LaGuardia? LaGuardia is the place where souls go to die), I always try to remind myself that that person is or once was someone’s beloved baby. I also try to think about the fact that hurt people hurt people.*

ANYway, in that same vein of being on the receiving end of something negative and recalibrating my thoughts, it’s an interesting challenge to try to redirect my focus onto someone else: I wonder how my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Johnson is doing, ’cause she was so good to me when my anxiety was undiagnosed. Is my mom (a flight attendant) in the air right now? Is that UPS driver happy, and would they like one of the cold bottles of water Whole Foods keeps sending me that I didn’t ask for and I now suppose their secret plan all along has been to hydrate strangers? What might I get [person I like so much/maybe even person I don’t like so much] for their birthday? What would make them smile? So on and so forth.

While anxiety has very real physical manifestations, it either starts in your brain OR your brain perpetuates and escalates the situation into longer unrest. This is a trick worth trying, wondering about other people and possibly how you might help them or make them smile. Wouldn’t you want someone to help you or make you smile? One time I was sobbing by the East River, as New Yorkers are wont to do because, waiting for results from my neurologist, I’d convinced myself I had a brain tumor and that this was it, my nerves fried, my adrenaline dumped, and nothing left to give. My limbs had gone limp and I was melting into a park bench like a lumpy black-clothes-clad popsicle in the sun. A woman walking her dogs stopped to ask if I was okay, and I still think about her a bunch. How’s she doin’? Is she okay? I like your dogs! Thanks for checking on me! Sorry for lying to you about whether I was okay! Wish I could send you a Starbucks gift card!

Next time you’re wiggin’ and feel anxiety creeping in, try redirecting your thoughts outside of your body. It might be a crash and burn, or it could be lit, as the youths say. Won’t know til ya try it.

Warmest,
Bailey

*Sometimes I think I need a writing wrangler. Like, someone who’s watching the words and sentences build from my fingers on the keyboard in real time and then they’re like * skrrr! * (skidding tire sound when braking) “We’ve got a, uh, 9-oh-6 violation of severe digression, please resume to your point, ma’am.” Now that I think about it, that’s what an editor does.** But, sometimes digression is kinda funny. Or, at least it’s kinda fun…ny… for me.

**I’m a freelance editor and am actually v good at it. So, I guess I exorcise all of my pent up digressions here on ye olde blog.


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 Bailey:
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: The Gold of One’s Spirit
Mental Health: Flip Over Some Emotional Rocks, See What’s Happenin’ Underneath! (Pandemic Activity Idea)


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

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

Mental Health: Flip Over Some Emotional Rocks, See What’s Happenin’ Underneath! (Pandemic Activity Idea)

Hi! It’s been a few weeks since I hit you with a traditional Wednesday mental health post opposed to my and Rick’s goofy videos on mental illness and marriage. I was going to post a new installment of our grainy, terribly produced vlog, but at minute 17 of recording Rick turned to me on camera and said, “Can we do this video again? I don’t like what you said about [something about Rick]. I just don’t think that should be on YouTube. Also, you talked about dancing to ‘Mr. Roboto’ for seven minutes straight.”

Fair enough, Rick. Although I stand by the fact that Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” is the best/funniest song to dance to maybe ever. Wedding DJs consider it a dance floor killer, I consider it a dance floor thriller. Especially since the actual song “Thriller” gives me the creeps now that MJ’s true colors are shinin’ through. Unlike Cyndi, though, his true colors are why I don’t love him. Tough bum out.

Eighties music aside, it’s been one month and two days since my graduation, and I remain on the job hunt. When I was talking to a recruiter, she was rueful af about the fact that, six months ago, she’d had boat loads of jobs I’d be a stellar candidate for but now everyone is on a hiring freeze. Graduating during a global pandemic and civil rights crisis is a doozy! I’ve done the leg work. Even though I know I cannot do anything about the economic climate we’re living in, which includes the job market, it’s still hard to know I am not contributing to my family financially, especially with New York being s’dang expensive. Being in school is no longer an excuse.

To maintain my mental health I’ve been keeping pretty rigid morning and night routines, although rigid doesn’t seem to be the right adjective since that connotes a kind of non-breezy execution. My routines are what help me both start and wind down the day and I look forward to them. I’ve been jogging or doing yoga a couple times a week (sometimes even three if I’m feeling zealous!) and have been keeping busy with job applications, working on my manuscript, and the general minutiae of home life. Never have I had a cleaner shower. Or candied butternut squash.*

Anyway, I just want to say today that if you’re having an issue these days doing something that’d otherwise be no problem, or at least significantly easier, I get it. If you don’t get down, I won’t get down. I mean, I can’t promise, cause Sunday I was in a terrible, smile-less pit of despair, but I will do my best. I hope you’ll keep your chin up the best you can, too, and be extra gentle with yourself and others. Give your loved ones the benny of the doubt and more grace than usual. Rick challenged me to do that, and it actually uncovered a lot of turmoil and a need for support from my loved ones. Flip over some rocks and see what’s underneath.** Check in on a friend or family member who’s usually v strong, and who might be putting on a slight façade.

If all else fails, turn on “Mr. Roboto” for a giggle. Then, turn your freestyle choreo into a TikTok sensation, go viral, get picked up by a talent management agency, and the rest is history. Don’t forget ole bummed out Bailey when you’re famous.

Warmest,
Domo arigato,
Bailey

*P.S. I subscribed to Misfits Market (organic produce that sometimes looks weird but tastes the same) and lugged a 13 lb. box up to my third floor apartment, wondering what the heck I’d done. Thirteen pounds?! Well, we’ve smashed it in less than a week. Plants, ahoy. For real. I even got Rick to eat said squash. Secret: maple syrup and cinnamon. Anyway, highly recommend. Enormous box was $22, and lord knows organic produce at the store ain’t that cheap.

**This reminds me of a chapter title in So Sad Today (by Melissa Broder) that made me lol, something like “Under the Anxiety is Sadness but Who Would Go Under There”


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 Bailey:
Mental Health: How to Perk up When you Feel Like You’ve Been Percocet’d
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: The Gold of One’s Spirit


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

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

Mental Health: The Gold of One’s Spirit

Hello lovely people, I hope all are hanging in and that your loved ones are safe and sound. For those of you who are going through it medically, emotionally, mentally, I’m sending you condolences. This sucks.

Last week, on Monday, May 4th to be exact, I turned in my thesis,* something I’ve labored over for two years, officially marking the end of my grad school experience and the receipt of my Master of Fine Art for Creative Writing with a focus on Nonfiction. This is a huge deal for a lot of reasons, of course, a true pivotal moment. It means celebration! It means agent queries! It means champagne! It means job hunting! It means debt! Lol!

As I polished up my final 119 pages, one of the last things I did as a review was read it out loud to myself and shuffle phrasing as needed. It took 6+ hours. Six plus hours of revisiting terrible memories of not knowing whether my brother Alex would live or die and reliving the genesis of my own anxiety, the silent, unnamed war happening inside my nine year-old head.

All in one sitting.

Yesterday I had one of those days where I did my best but began feeling hopeless, again. I’m in the same outfit day in, day out, leaving the apartment every few days for fresh air and necessities, like toilet paper… or a curbside margarita.

Seriously, I only leave the house when I need to, and sometimes that’s not for material goods. With mental illness, sometimes I just have to leave my apartment/box in the air to let my eyes focus on something far away and breathe deeply (no people in sight, of course). My eyes are atrophying. They’re different. And, today, I felt a nonexistent cockroach crawling all over me. I had to get out.

Imaginary cockroaches aside, it’s been a big week emotionally, with both the seemingly never ending quarantine and the submission of my thesis all while knowing that my family would not be coming up to NYC to see me walk.

Cheryl Strayed is doing a special podcast series for COVID times called Sugar Calling, and in the latest episode she called Alice Walker. Yes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker. It seems her latest work is a collection of poems, one of which she read aloud to Cheryl and listeners. It moved me, and I frantically wrote down an excerpt to share:

The Long Road Home

I am beginning to comprehend
the mystery
of the gift of suffering.
It is true as some
have said
that it is a crucible
in which the gold of one’s spirit
is rendered
and shines.

Alice Walker

So, whatever is tempering the gold of your spirit, whatever your crucible is, if you’re under fire right now, hold fast. According to Alice Walker, eventually you’ll shine.

Warmest,
Bailey

*Due to its length and subject matter, I will be sharing my thesis on Patreon.


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 Bailey:
Mental Health: How to Perk up When you Feel Like You’ve Been Percocet’d
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: A Poem to Read at Ho…me [ho-uhm]


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

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