Re: Home

Dear A,

For all that I love home, it’s also a place I hate the most.

I hate the feeling of lying in my bedroom, frustrated for getting yelled at to do something I had already done, and hearing my mother talk about how disappointed she is in my “behavior.”

I hate that I can’t force myself into a better mood… I can’t force myself to “get over it” when I become irritated.

I miss feeling my feelings with you.

I feel guilty for frustration; I feel guilty for being tired. I feel guilty for being irritable, and I feel guilty for wanting space or wanting quiet. I feel guilty for not cheerfully completing every task asked of me or suggested to me. I feel guilty when I don’t do things right away, like wash the dishes, or help unload the groceries. It’s almost harder to complete any “tasks” or “chores” because I know if I don’t get to it fast enough or do it grudgingly or don’t do enough I’ll just feel guilty all over again.

I hate this, babe. I hate

I know I’m overly emotional at the moment because I’m running on very little sleep, a very high stress time, and I’m on my period. But it’s really, really hard for me right now and I miss you a lot. You’re not disappointed in me at every turn. I don’t fail to meet your expectations.

I wish home was a different place than it is, and even though in the last six years I’ve gotten better at not expecting perfection, every time I’m here these feelings of not being good enough and disappointing her wash over me. I’m afraid to do anything for fear of doing it wrong. I think I probably isolate a lot here because I don’t want to deal with the pressure of possibly disappointing her or making her mad. Every interaction is dangerous.

Among all the other things I love about you, I love the way you make me feel. I get waves of inadequacy and guilt and “not good enough” feelings, because of course, but when I’m with you they pass. I don’t isolate. I don’t fear interaction. And frankly, this is the first time I’ve really felt that way, and the discrepancy between my life with you and being at home is really quite astonishing.

Lots to talk to my therapist about, haha. I’m sorry, this is a mopey Christmas eve email. I probably won’t send it till after Christmas eve anyway. 🙂 Happy Boxing Day!

I love you.

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Weeding through…

Weeding through the medical records they sent me.

As expected, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. The most interesting document is the initial assessment from my psychiatrist when I was about 9 years old. The words seem to echo hollowly, almost appear meaningless: “very perfectionistic, overly sensitive, shy, withdrawn little girl,” “extremely irritable, quick to flare, overly sensitive, etc,” “devaluing of herself, may make threats about wishing she was dead, talks about herself being a ‘bad person,'” “overachiever… wants to be the best and do the best.”

It sounds simplistic too me, almost offensively so. Words about “no signs of depression,” “happy and content most of the time,” “no unusual fears or phobic reactions.” I know, I know, that this was an initial assessment and things changed. I have my mom’s “book,” in which she basically wrote diary entries about my emotional health.

Even going through those entries, which I’ve read before too, are tiring to me. They seem one-sided, clinical. I know, I know, they can’t be any other way, but I wish there was something more here.

In these piles of papers, these yellowing sheets of lined notebook paper, I want to find an explanation. I want to understand what happened, who I was, where I was and how I survived. I want an explanation.

In a letter to my therapist and psychiatrist from my father, he writes:
“we’re both concerned that B’s egotism is so extreme that it impairs moral judgment. She seems utterly unable to summon empathy, and when she does her purpose seems more manipulative than empathetic.”

“B reports that she feels depressed. We know that she feels like a ‘bad’ person when her behavior is inappropriate, but we can’t help but feel sometimes that her apologies are manipulative.”

“To be frank, lately we can barely stand to be around her.”

I know, I know, that my parents love me more than most anything else on the planet. But flipping through these papers, notes, letters, diagnoses, clinical terms and records of meds increased and decreased, up on the Klonopin, down on the Risperdal,

Medical Records

Sometimes too often, I find myself struggling to fit what I remember about my childhood into my sense of who I am today. When I meet people these days, I seem to be a quirky, friendly girl, of course with problems but nothing too crazy. They don’t know about my struggles with ED, they don’t know about my depression. And they truly don’t know about what I went through between the ages of 8 and 14. To be honest, neither do I.

I ordered copies of my Behavioral Health medical records this week. I knew that asking for your records was something you were allowed to do, but I’d never considered actually going through the process of getting them.

I told my therapist about this decision, feeling a bit shy. Like I said, I sometimes think that I steep myself in the struggles of the past too much– making too much of the manic depression and the screaming and the anxiety and the bedwetting, exceeding its importance in who I am today. I rarely talk about it now, never with my parents, who saw me through it, and only at key moments with my closest friends. I’m not ashamed… it just doesn’t seem to come up.

But I think I continue to return to those years for a reason. My memories of what happened are jumbled and vague, flashes of images and emotions with no sense of chronology or cohesion. I have no language to talk about “those years,” besides just saying “those years” and hoping whoever I’m speaking with understands.

But understands what? Not even I know. And that’s why I’m hoping for some kind of sense of understanding to come from reading my records. I do know that it’s highly likely it will be far from enlightening, highly likely it will just frustrate me in its vagueness. But I have to try.

It may not be a part of my everyday life, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that “those years,” and all those feelings, all that pain, still lives inside me, somewhere, deep, longing to be understood.

Mud-Luscious and Puddle-Wonderful

I think you really realize you’re a grown up when you wake up on your 23rd birthday hungover from brunch the day before.

So. That happened.

Yesterday, a group of my friends reserved a brunch table at a place in midtown with a $20 all you can drink cocktail brunch. Needless to say, we got our money’s worth. The drinks were fabulous. Afterwards (like 4 hours later), we went around the corner to my friend’s new place in Hell’s Kitchen and took his pup up to the roof for some fresh air.

From there, we headed downtown to other friends’ place, where we ordered pizza and watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And then I made out and did just about everything except have condom-requiring sex with my ex-boyfriend/close friend. For the love. The good news is that I know both of us had a good time and neither of us really give a fuck. No regrets. Happy birthday to me. And as usual with drunken sexy shenanigans (although it’s been a while), I felt really sexy. I was really sexy. Happy birthday to me.

To be honest, I wasn’t terribly hungover this morning, and actually felt just fine. But it’s my birthday, so I wanted to figure out something to do. I spent a couple of hours lounging in bed with Franny, watching movies and trying to come up with a plan. I had a couple of ideas.

One, I could make an amazingly huge delicious meal and dessert and maybe invite L over and just enjoy the process of cooking.

Two, I could stick to my original plan, even though no one could come with me, and get on MetroNorth up to Cold Spring, on the Hudson River, for a day trip.

I brushed my hair, threw on sneakers, filled a water bottle, and Number Two it was.

I got to Cold Spring around 2pm. It was a gorgeous day—just enough of a chilly breeze to keep a light coat on, but bright sun and fresh, clean, warm spring air. I was a bit out of my league, alone in a small town I’d never been to with no real plan… but I saw on my iPhone that there was a local cemetery, about half a mile up Bank Rd. and I knew that was where to begin.

I love cemeteries because I love history, and because I love to imagine people’s stories. I can spend hours in a historic cemetery, gazing at gravestones, finding the oldest stones, the youngest deaths, the largest families. I like to trace the carvings with my fingers, clearing away dust and leaves to read the names, the ages, the dates. I say the names under my breath as I pass them, and in my mind I invent lives and stories to fill the gaps. There’s something, too, so calming and serene about a stroll through a cemetery on a lovely, sunny day. I feel quiet inside, still, respectful, and honored.

After spending some time there, I decided to head back towards town, finding myself back on Main St. after a scenic detour through a lovely residential area. I’ve never spent any time in the Hudson Valley, really. I am pretty familiar with Connecticut, and I’ve been to White Plains and other Westchester spots infrequently, and I did spend an entire summer in the Berkshires. But there was something particular about Cold Spring and the Hudson Valley landscape. The homes were sweet and simple, often a bit overgrown and lived in. And surrounding this sweet cluster of homes, gardens, trees, and buildings, were lush round hills, covered in bright green foliage. It was like Berkshires-lite, and brighter than those hills. Just gorgeous.

Main St. was clogged with antique stores, which don’t particularly call my name, but I ambled slowly enough to glance into each as I passed it. Also frequent were ice cream and coffee shops, and sweetly sunglass-ed visitors, hand in hand or pushing strollers. I felt, behind my birthday sunglasses (thanks Mom!), almost invisible among them, and it was lovely.

It was around 3:45pm, and I decided that I might as well get a bite to eat, even though it wasn’t “dinner time.” Hey, it’s my birthday, I can eat if I want to. There were a number of places to choose from, but finally I decided to not obsess over it and just go into the first place with outdoor seating that perked my attention—a place called the Cold Spring Depot. I saw they had veggie burgers, and I knew I wanted that.

I was seated in the back of the large outdoor area, a fence and a thin strip of green space separating me from the Metro North tracks I’d come up on. My waitress, an elderly woman who seemed confused by my solitariness and sweetness, was incredibly apologetic when I ordered my burger—they were out. She asked if I was a vegetarian, and I said yes, to which she responded that really, my only choice was the Portobello sandwich. “That’s fine,” I assured her, “that should be just fine.” I sipped on my Diet Coke and checked my phone for the first time in hours. I always forget, until my birthday, how good it feels to get all those random Facebook “happy birthdays” from people I literally haven’t heard from in years. There’s something really cathartic about that overflow of thought and two-second effort from people from all over my life.

I finished up and paid, and then walked next door for an ice cream cone– regular one-scoop of cookies ‘n’ cream in a cone– and then took the underpass to the river. The houses got larger and nicer as I moved towards the Hudson, fancy bed-and-breakfasts and larger streets, cars parked on the sides. Along the river, straight in front of me, jutted a large plaza with benches and an antique cannon at its center. Once I stepped onto the cobblestones, the wind knocked the lapel of my coat up into my face. I gazed around, towards where I knew West Point was, up towards Breakneck Ridge, which I still plan to hike, and across into the peaked, white waves of that Old Man Hudson River. I could barely take photos with my phone, because the wind was so brisk, and finally, decided to just head back and hop the Metro North home.

Come on. This is HILARIOUS.
Thank you, Cold Spring.

I nearly fell asleep between Croton-on-Harmon and Yankee Stadium, drifting off to a FilmSpotting podcast and the familiar rumble of the train, but managed to rouse myself to exit at Harlem-125. I hopped on the M100 bus, which let me off on Frederick Douglass. I stopped briefly off at Best Yet to grab some ingredients for the week’s lunches/dinners, and then happily drifted back into my sweet little haven.

I made a delicious Basil-Broccoli Mac-and-Cheese (thanks http://www.101cookbooks.com), vacuumed some of the cardboard residue Franny has been enjoying shredding in her spare time, washed lots of dishes (and broke a plate), and snuggled up with my sweet dear puss and a glass of water. I am beyond sleepy and ready to curl up with Fran, who is dreaming on my left arm right now.

It’s been 23 years since I was born, and some things have changed, but not much.

Love,
B.

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”
William Shakespeare

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”
E.E. Cummings

“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”
E.E. Cummings

“So what if nobody came?
I’ll have all the ice cream and tea,
And I’ll laugh with myself,
And I’ll dance with myself,
And I’ll sing, “Happy Birthday to me!”
Shel Silverstein

What Once We Felt

I spent a portion of tonight re-reading many archived emails deep in the “vault”: I have archives in my box that go back to September 2008.

I can’t say it makes me feel good, but I know why I do it. I do it to make sense of the things that happened to get me to where I am. Because I do this… well, not infrequently… I remember most of what’s there. But occasionally I stumble upon something that really hits me.

Here are a few things, for my reference, so I have them in one place… and I wonder if some of them bring up things for others. Sending love.

B.

November 2009 – Feeling Like a Victim

Tough session with [therapist] today. It started great… I told her about how great it felt to do Katie’s birthday, a lot of what I expressed to you on Friday. But somehow we sort of got on how I have a hard time feeling like I know how to care for others (I never know what to say!), and maybe that’s because I don’t know how I want to be taken care of. I ended up telling her about this weird thing I have about always wanting to be a victim– like loving being in the hospital when I got that kidney test done, all the Holocaust and Salem Witch Trial obsession stuff– weird stuff. What amazed me was how often I feel that way (wanting people’s pity, wanting to  suffer), and although I don’t totally know why, part of it ist that I feel like I need some sort of validation to be in pain. Like my life didn’t give me any reason to be in pain, and an outward, excessive expression of suffering (like being in a hospital) would allow me that. I feel that way shockingly often.
 
[Therapist] had me try and isolate a place where I felt truly sad– the place that I feel like I need a “reason” to feel. From there we spent a long time “exploring” this deep, ancient grotto of sadness. That sounds really esoteric, but we sort of found this imagined location where I spent a long time. We didn’t “discover” anything, I didn’t have any great realizations, but we explored. It wasn’t a comfortable place to be for a long time.

November 2009 – What Is Going On?

[Therapist],
 
I want you to know some things that I haven’t yet expressed. It is really, really difficult for me to say them, and I think that’s part of the reason I haven’t yet. I wrote a list of sentences I wanted to share and am sending them to you in this sort of unfinished form because otherwise I’m not sure I’d be able to.
 
I eat when I’m not hungry
I feel as though I can’t stop eating
I feel guilty afterwards
I don’t starve myself after I binge, and I don’t purge, so that’s good
 
Even though I know I should gain weight (I bought a scale and I weigh between 98 and 102lbs) the idea of gaining weight is really scary to me and repulsive to me.
 
I love cooking and making food. When I binge I don’t cook, I just eat. I don’t focus on anything but putting the food into my mouth. There is no joy in it.

I hide this from everyone—I only binge when no one is looking.
 
Besides the binging, I am a very healthy person. I feel good about the way I treat my body beyond this one thing.

February 2010 – What People Are Saying / What I Am Feeling

Then, after I finished classes, I got a text from the Theatre Department manager asking me to come to her office. I went up, and we talked about some work things/business stuff (because I’m the head of the department’s assistant, so I help with money and paperwork stuff). Then she asked me to sit down. When she almost started crying, I knew what she was going to bring up, and sure enough, she told me that “there is a lot of concern in the department about whether you have an eating disorder.” She was really sweet and caring (as everyone is when they talk about this stuff to me), but in the place I already was yesterday, it was especially hard for me to hear and kind of put me over the edge. I didn’t know what to say and I just felt really lost and misunderstood. I told her what I always say, about the fact that it was accidental and I know it’s weird and I SO appreciate the concern and all of that, and also that I am making direct efforts to help myself. Of course she was really wonderful about all of it, but I felt self-conscious and really sad all through the rest of the day.

On my way home, I called my mom to tell her how it went, and opened up about how frustrated I was feeling. At some point she said, “I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself, but I’m sorry it had to take your hip injury to make you realize that you need to deal with this problem.” I reacted to that, saying that I had been taking care of this particular “problem” long before my hip started hurting (I’m not sure if I told you, but the hip stuff may be related to demineralization, which could be related to the weight loss). I tried to explain to her what I was hearing and what I didn’t agree with in that, and we came to a kind of understanding, but I think therein lies the root of what I’m feeling right now…

 I wish I wasn’t feeling quite so hyperaware of how other people are perceiving the way I look, and I also wish I didn’t have to jump through all these hoops with doctors and meds, but that’s sort of where I’m at right now. I feel a lot of resistance towards calling the internist and even more towards the nutritionist (I think because I don’t want to be seen as someone with a problem with eating that has to be fixed– I just want to keep doing what I’m doing). And, frankly, I don’t want to take the birth control for very vain reasons– I felt moody, I broke out, and I gained weight. I know the goal is to gain weight, but I want to do it on my terms, not the pills’ terms. Maybe that’s a sign of a “problem,” but I still want to be in control of the things that happen to my body. With all of these things to change how I’ve been going through my life the last few months (a life I feel REALLY good about), I’m feeling nervous, sad, and lost. I’m feeling a lot of resistance to all of this but I think I just have to buck up and do it. I do want to be healthy. But I wish it wasn’t mixed up with all of this.

February 2010 – Acting Notes Sound Like Porn

First Orgasm Sillhouette – we will look at this today but maybe you can sit on his lap on “why are you so sweet, so juicy, and so bad?” – so that it is easier for you to climb up the wall?  I want to hold your back arched for a bit longer with your hand up before you moan.

March 2010 – Bragging

And then I rediscovered this: one of the final scenes from the play I did in Feb/March 2010. It was for a forum at my school about Religion and Madness. I went to a Jesuit school. I flashed a lot of people. You’re welcome. Don’t judge me.

 

Imagining Myself

As a very young child, I could spend hours on the swingset outside my childhood home, telling stories to myself under my breath, playing every role. My parents have video of this– a tiny blonde girl in blue gingham, placing a dandelion blosson in the palm of an imaginary friend, circling the slide, talking softly to herself, weaving a tale in which she plays all the roles.

Even when I was “too old” for games, on warm summer evenings I’d sneak to the backyard, ice cream cone in hand, and swing high into the air, murming stories to myself, stopping the moment my mother peeked her head out of the screen door. On rare moments when I was home alone, I’d wait till the door swung shut and rush to the costume basket in my closet, pulling on my homemade Civil War Belle costume, and I’d use the entire house as my stage.

These were the moments of purity in years of turmoil. I suffered at home, where my bursts of rage shattered rare moments of peace. I was always being punished for something– either by my parents (“no ballet”) or myself (“you’re a terrible person”). My imagination was the only part of my personality that felt truly like myself. The sadness, the anger, the self-hatred, even the highs of mania and my talent in schoolwork, those were not the real “me.”

These are the kinds of stories actors love to tell about their childhoods– the vivid imaginations, the stories told to ourselves, the escape into our creative minds. While I know that this path is what I’m meant to do, I would never say that acting “saved” me or gave me some new outlet for my energies. There’s something much too twee, much too pat about those kinds of statements for me. My road is curved and forked and rocky and often unbearable, and there’s no part of me that romanticizes it. I include my eating disorder, my depression, my intelligence, my solitude, and yes, my craft, as parts of that “road.” My need to play pretend is just as much a part of me as my depression. They’re ingrained.

Now, I whine about agents and cry about my non-commercial body and freak out about callbacks. I have a new language for that part of me. I went to boarding school to study acting, but I also went to boarding school because I knew I didn’t belong at home. The decision was just as much about wanting to be an actor as it was knowing what I needed for my emotional health.

Last night, despite fighting through a nasty flu, I met a friend’s mother at Peter and the Starcatcher (a new Broadway show, transfered from one of my favorite off-Broadway houses, New York Theatre Workshop), who had an extra free ticket for me. When the lights went down, I felt a familiar leap in my heart. At some point during the second act, I glanced around me at the rows of filled seats, and listened to the synchronized, organic waves of laughter that scattered across the theatre. No one was looking at me. Everyone was sitting next to, or in front of, or behind, a stranger. We all glided together through the playful current of the show, no one ahead, no one behind, no one judging.

It’s like being onstage, I suppose, at least for me. The cast journeys together on the ever-changing current, sometimes pushed, sometimes pulled, by the energy of the audience and each other. I feel more like myself, an honest self, than in any other moments of my life. I am there because I have been selected to be there, and I am perfect there.

The self I know the best is the self that journeys on imagination.

No mood.

I got called back. Guess momma’s hopping on NJ Transit again.

***

I had the weirdest audition of my life yesterday. Total disaster– and all on him. I thought it was for a PSA, but no… it was not. It was indescribable, you guys. I just can’t even begin to explain. I was over it from the second I walked in, so it’s pointless to even go into.

Today I have another one of those pay-money-to-meet-agents bullshit things, and the last thing I want to do is go. Didn’t go so well last time, and I’m so tired of pandering for attention. I guess Mission Spring 2012 GetAnAgent is on pause until I can handle assholes again.

Then I have an audition for a student film at the School of Visual Arts. Fine. I haven’t prepared. We’ll see.

Next week, an audition for a short film and for a regional production of Bloody Bloody. It’s terrible… I couldn’t care less.

***

This last week, I’ve been a mess. Depressed, bed-ridden, binging like a crazy person. Crying, hating myself, hating everyone else. Walking through the city as though I’m existing in my own little bubble, not allowing anyone else inside. You may not approach. You may not speak. You may not see me. I am invisible to you. My therapist says this is “shame.” I agree, sure, but I still do it.

I’m hoping that begins to pass, but even today I’m just in no mood. No mood for what, you say? No mood for anything. No mood for being awake, as it were. I’m in no mood.

***

If I could, I’d apologize to my friends and family for being the worst this week. These are times I’m glad I don’t have a roommate. The way I’ve been functioning is in bursts of energy, getting me dressed (showered once this week– go me!), washing the dishes, taking out the trash. But once that’s completed I rush home to collapse in bed. I let my phone calls go to voicemail, even the call from the boy who I love so so so much (the boy who “had a girl in his life” after we had the most amazing date and yes, made out), even his text. Which is probably good on me, but done for sheer “over it”-ness. I didn’t call my mother for the whole week, despite her anxiety about my Jersey audition, my trip to Wit, my impending visit home, and my inability to scan and send my tax forms simply because of my inability to get out of bed.

Finally, yesterday I called her, after managing to shower, blow dry my hair (a feat on a good day, since I really just don’t care), dress, scan my forms, AND called both the restaurant I worked at last summer who haven’t sent me a w-2 and the IRS– more than I’ve accomplished in at least 48 hours together. She didn’t pick up, but called me back within the hour. I told her the reason I hadn’t called was because I’d had a bad week. I forget that my euphemisms don’t work on my mother– she’s unfortunately overly attuned to my mood swings. Not calling her for a week, regardless, is a sign of depression. She tells me,

“You know, you can talk to me when you’re feeling sad. I’m not judging you or worrying about you. I know you can take care of yourself.”

This is a response to something I’ve told her before about why I only call when I’m happy (also related to her hyper-attention to my moods), but in all honesty, I meant it when I replied,

“No, mom, I know that. It’s just that I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone.”

***

Time to put on my coral orange dress and my gray booties. Time to brush out my curls. Time to put my coffee mug in the sink and pack my headshots in my bag. Time to go down to 36th St and whore myself out to five agents. Time to audition for a student director who is probably at least two years younger than me. Time to pretend I’m prepared for things I haven’t even looked at. Time to give myself that burst of energy and hope it lasts long enough until I can rush home and lie in bed again.

***

I’m fine. This too shall pass. But honestly, I’m in no mood.