Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 2

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]

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


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Mental Health: My Lowest Point in Eleven Years

On Thursday I experienced some kind of psychotic episode that concluded with the strongest suicidal ideation I’ve experienced in eleven years. I’m working with my psychiatrist and family to address what happened to me and how to move forward. I’m still reeling from the episode and am physically, emotionally, and mentally weak. When I’m able to, I have every intention to share the details of that day. But right now…

I’m walking the walk.

Mental Health: No, You Don’t “Have Anxiety”

I’m gonna try to keep my cool here because, if you’ve been reading BOB for a while, you know I get fired up about word impeccability.

I’ve known about word impeccability ever since I read the book The Four Agreements ten years ago. It essentially champions saying what you mean and meaning what you say, something that’s not as simply employed as it seems. It remains on my nightstand as a reminder to this day.

I learned about the nuance of word impeccability as it pertains to specific people while working at Special Olympics International down in D.C. People first language, such as “Tabitha uses a wheelchair” versus “Tabitha is wheelchair-bound” and “Frankie has autism” versus “Frankie is autistic” gives agency to the person being described and also eradicates the physical or intellectual disability from defining the person being described.

Shortly after adopting this language I realized its parallels to the mental health community. “Sarah has Bipolar Disorder” versus “Sarah’s Bipolar” or “The psychiatrist says the man may have borderline personality disorder” versus “the man is borderline”. It’s essentially the use of “is” (defining) versus “has” (one descriptor).

Alright, now, where word impeccability gets personal is with the flippant use of the word “anxiety”.

When I was 13 years old, the summer before I went to high school, I went with my family to a sold out showing of a blockbuster. Every seat was filled and the movie was original, visually arresting and, for me, an absolute terror fest.

I was seated next to my mom right in the middle of a packed row mid-theater, ideal seats for most. Except I began to experience anxiety that I would not be able to quickly exit the situation. If I did, I’d upset people by making them have to stand up to let me by (this was long before recliners) and then upset them again by side-stepping back to my seat in front of their view. And then, what if I had to get up again?

Wait, is that an urge to pee? No, wait, I’m going to vomit. Yep, I’m certainly going to vomit and ruin this movie for everyone in seats around me.

My body became drenched in sweat despite the generously air-conditioned theater. I slipped around in my seat and gripped the arm rests. I began to panic, and my mom glanced over me and saw my white face. She had no idea what to do, and couldn’t open up a conversation in the middle of the movie to do a deep dive on what the hell was wrong. She asked me if I was okay, and I couldn’t even open my mouth to respond. If I did, I’d certainly vomit.

What if this is my last moment? Oh, god, I’m going to die in this movie theater. This is it.

My body turned rigid.

Isn’t this how a seizure begins? I’m going to die here in this velour seat with popcorn stuck to my sweat after I fall to the ground. I’m going to choke on my tongue. This is it. This is it. This is it.

My mom pulled papers out of her bag and began fanning me. She didn’t know what to do, either.

What was this?

I might as well not have been in a theater, because my thoughts were solely on survival. My thoughts had literally turned to death. When the fanning cooled me off, my heart began to slow, but the terror of leaving my seat made me stay in my seat until, finally, the movie ended. When the credits rolled people began to leave their seats, the bottoms springing back up to meet their seat backs with a thud, clearing the aisles. As they exited the theater, my body began to relax. I was physically exhausted and dazed as I walked out into the merciless sunlight. Instead of jabbering excitedly about a great movie, I was just working to get my body to the car.

On the way out I saw one of the “hottest” guys from school and we waved at each other. I gave him a weak smile. I was so relieved to be seeing him then instead of when I almost hurled in the theater. Don’t even get me started on dealing with undiagnosed mental illness in the throes of the social stressors of puberty…

People, that is a panic attack.

An anxiety attack is like a panic attack’s more reasonable cousin, as the former usually has an identifiable source. Panic attacks come out of nowhere and I’ve been absolutely plagued by both of these experiences since childhood.

It really upsets me when someone says they’re having anxiety and it doesn’t have anything to do with mental incapacitation. It downplays the experiences of people who truly have anxiety or panic disorders. It downplays the plight that trails me everywhere I go like some hungry, stray dog. It downplays true suffering and further hurts those afflicted.

Being anxious is a normal feeling fueled by cortisol that is a part of our survival mechanisms as humans. It comes and goes in appropriate situations, like job interviews or first dates. You can be anxious, but you’re not having anxiety. You’re not having an anxiety or panic attack.

You. Are. Simply. Anxious.

Someone who actually has anxiety is like their internal jug of cortisol gets dumped over in unsuspecting, often inopportune moments that deteriorate quality of life. In the 90s and 2000s I didn’t have language to describe what I was going through and felt completely isolated. Now that there’s common language for these disorders, people throw it around like a frisbee. Now, when I tell someone I have anxiety, it’s written off because “everyone” has it. That’s incorrect and, again, downplays the very real mental illness I suffer from.

It’s a blessing and a curse, really, the growing commonality of language pertaining to mental illness. While I’m glad people are able to talk more openly about their issues, others casually adopt the wording to describe every day feelings.

As I work hard to linguistically respect others with descriptors instead of definers, I wish to receive the same respect, myself. Please, work hard to respect people by using the correct wording. Everyone deserves that fundamental consideration.

I know this is going up the day before the 4th of July so, as Kevin G and the Power of Three would say after an aggressive performance, “Happy holidays, everybody!”

Mental Health: Depression Suppression!!!

On Wednesday I got bilateral foot surgery for boring, non-urgent reasons – basically something that was going to get worse with age. My insurance and timelines aligned and I decided to just go ahead and knock it out. I’m set to have my full mobility back in two months, a couple weeks before school starts again.

Before the surgery I did as much as I could physically and tried to postpone all stationary activities for post-op. I raced around to finish a job for Tidy B Organizing, I cooked ahead of schedule for Bummed Out Baker, I went and got ~the final pedicure~. For the first week of recovery I wasn’t meant to walk more than to the bathroom or maybe to the kitchen to grab something (definitely not to stand around to cook), and not much else. Stationary was compulsory. Stationary was good.

The day after surgery, I woke up and relished relaxing in bed all day, watching bad TV, lolligagging on my phone, and housing the cupcakes my sister in-law and brother sent me. On Friday I felt an inkling of stir crazy coming on. How long was I gonna be in this bed, again? By Saturday the dishes had begun to pile up around me and remained far longer than typical me would ever allow (Rick was in charge. Rick is relaxed. Be like Rick). Unwrapped packages littered the desk, random shoes weren’t put away, and clothes were slung over the chair. I’ve never been a clothes-over-chair-slinger, and it was painful to look at. When I managed to hobble into the kitchen while Rick was away working, I was aghast at the damage done without my religious dish-doing and counter-wiping. I hustled back to my bedroom as fast as a foot-bound, drugged up person can and shut the door, hiding away like Quasimodo. I got back in bed and looked around me. Picked up a book, set it back down. Opened Instagram to find nothing new from ten minutes before, swiped up to close it. Got tired of Gilmore Girls, so I just slept. And slept, and slept, and slept. I’m famed among my friends and family for sleeping suspicious amounts, which my psychiatrist has pegged as my emotional escape mechanism, so you’d think this would be my dream (see what I did there). At first, it was. But then I got tired… of sleeping. The pinnacle of my emotional spiral was when Rick made an innocent joke and I burst into tears. #PoorRick

There is no busy work I can do, no collecting Rick’s damn Nicorette wrappers that seem to infiltrate every crevice of everywhere, no bathroom sink to wipe off. I grew terribly depressed in a matter of days and then realized the depression wasn’t new, it was simply emerging from the mountain of unnecessary tasks I typically bury it with. Instead of scuttling around the house doing things that don’t really matter, I was forced to write on Bummed Out Baker, brainstorm marketing for Tidy B Organizing, workshop fellow writers in my collective, organize my digital photos and analog notes, read, write, and reckon. I was being forced to reckon with myself and what’s going on in my head. When there is no choice, there is no excuse. I lean so firmly on busy work to numb my mind that being forced to take a literal seat for weeks at a time has left me with some interesting tea leaves at the bottom of my cup, if you nom sayin’.

these Mickey Mouse feet crack me up every time

Written on Tuesday, June 18, 2019.

Related on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Depression Lies to You
Mental Health: Guilt and Golden Retrievers and Headaches
Mental Health: Weight Gain and Mental Medications


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.

Mental Health: Compassion Fatigue and Hyper-Empathy

Rick is annoyed that I’m self-diagnosing myself again, but I can’t help it. I was listening to a podcast* while getting ready for bed the other night when I burst out of the bathroom to enthusiastically announce my discovery to Rick: “Hey! I have compassion fatigue and hyper-empathy!” Did I mention I get into bed about 1:00am? Poor Rick, all he wanted was to fall asleep listening to inspiring football stories on YouTube. I just get so excited when I gain language for something I’ve been experiencing and unable to accurately put into words for years, especially as a writer. It was like the time I discovered “dual diagnosis” and “co-occurrence” to describe mental illness + addiction. Revelatory.

This study discusses compassion fatigue due to the overwhelming nature of social problems that leads to burnout. It’s from 1996 and is still relevant. The fact that this is a thing shouldn’t be surprising, taking into account the stressful existence of a 24-hour news cycle. Something else that will likely be to no one’s surprise: compassion fatigue is often experienced by social workers, hospice workers, nurses, and psychiatrists. Guess what I’m talking about next week with my psych?! Cause now I’m worried about him.

I worry about government corruption, our oceans and forests, people without quality / accessible medical care, those assholes at Texas A&M who give golden retrievers M.S. so they can do tests on them, violence against women all over the world, whether people next to me are comfortable and me thinking Did I hurt their feelings? over and over, whether the person on the subway next to me has enough personal space and then arranging myself so none of my belongings are in it**, whales in captivity not getting to swim long distances with their family members, the whale pup at SeaWorld who got taken away from its mom who then just sank to the bottom of her tank and audibly cried for days, whether the man running the newsstand downstairs is happy, the time I saw $20 fall out of someone’s pocket in high school and instead of returning it I kept it and now imagine them not eating for days because of me, racial justice and reparations, the guy in front of the subway stairs who’s leg is rotting off (so I called 911), gay people who aren’t included or treated with respect while I get to go off and marry Rick no problem and am even celebrated for it, hurting the feelings of the employees at Jersey Mike’s when I parked in front of their store only to walk next door to the taco shop, that time ten years ago when my dad called me because he hadn’t talked to me that day and I responded “Do we have to talk every day?”, gentle pigs and cows getting shot in the head for unnecessary human food, forgetting to send a gift or thank you note, not saying thank you enough in general, whether or not my parents are okay, whether or not my parents know how grateful I am, whether or not my golden retrievers are dehydrated or hungry or hot or sad or in pain because they can’t talk and tell me, whether I’ve signed enough petitions and done enough to effect policy change, it goes on and on and on.

I worry about people, animals, our planet, and whether I’ve upset anyone CON. STANT. LY. Like a tick, I feel the overwhelming need to interject to apologize or explain long after everyone’s forgotten about what I’m even talking about. I cannot focus until I clear the air of things perhaps only taking place in my brain.

My parents joke that I sleep so much because I’m emotionally exhausted at the end of each day. I chew through mouth guards, subconsciously toiling away about all the problems in the world, real or imagined. To remedy, I try not to feel bad about having a cocktail and turning my brain off to watch Real Housewives of Atlanta and Beverly Hills. In the podcast* they call this type of activity “babysitting your brain.” You know, just let my brain sit over there for a while. Meanwhile I’ll be over here, strong cape cod in hand, in case it needs me.

Fun fact: hyper-empathy and compassion fatigue can be linked to borderline personality disorder. 🎶 Learn something new every daAaAaAy 🎶

Does anyone else suffer from hyper-empathy or compassion fatigue? Do tell. Revisiting all of my pet worries was extremely tiring to write, so I’m gonna go sleep for three days straight, now.


*Listen to “Too Much Empathy” from the podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You here.

**The other day I sat on the subway and the man next to me elbowed me twice in the side and, without looking at me, said “move over, you got all that space.” There were several inches between us, our bodies weren’t touching, and someone else’s stuff was on the other side of me. I am so conscious of other people’s space that I went home and burst into tears and told Rick I’d never be enough. Poor Rick 2: Electric Boogaloo.


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.