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I was diagnosed with major recurrent depression around 20 years ago but didn’t start taking medication for it until my late 20s, maybe early 30s. I started with Zoloft and didn’t like that because Of weight gain and I was already super fat back then. I switched to Paxil but that stopped working after awhile. I went in for a new Psychiatrist evaluation before trying a 3rd medication. I had a Psychologist I met with every other week but he couldn’t prescribe medication so he set up a meeting with a Psychiatrist in his practice.

The doctor asks a bunch of questions to better understand the mechanics of the depression to determine the best medication fit. We arrived at Effexor because it treated 2 brain chemicals instead of just serotonin like the first 2 had been limited to. Nothing is ever simple with me. I can’t just have one misfiring brain chemical, it had to be the combination of 2 which is why it took so long to regulate it. I have been on Effexor ever since. Every few years we have to adjust the dosage but, overall, it works.

I also have PTSD which I got from the Boston Marathon bombing. I am going to skip a couple “stories” here and fast forward to when I needed assistance from the Victim Compensation Fund. In order to be considered, I had to submit a whole slew of medical paperwork from multiple doctors in order to cover the full scope of what I was up against and the myriad of treatments I needed but couldn’t afford with medical insurance alone.

The documentation included notes from every therapy session as well as notes from my Psychiatric medication evaluation. In the Psychiatrist’s notes, there was a list of diagnoses I was familiar with. But there was a new one listed which I hadn’t seen before…”Alcoholism.” I remember being really confused because at no point had I referred to myself that way. I had answered questions about my drinking habits and I was very honest. I had assumed alcohol was an ingredient which needed to be considered in terms of side effects with certain medications.

Then I got really mad. My grandfather was an alcoholic. The kind that went to AA and whose children experienced different childhoods depending upon the before and after of his sobriety. My father grew up with the “before” and while I had never heard any stories about it, I knew for certain it impacted him. One of his brothers also had a significant problem with chemical dependency when I was just a baby. I did hear stories of him getting kicked out of his house and then sleeping in his car in front of our house. My parents would allow him to use the bathroom and shower there but not in my presence, which is why he had to sleep in his car. I was deeply aware of how this disease runs in families, especially Irish ones like us.

I have extremely strong feelings about the word. I don’t believe that anyone is allowed to characterize another person as an alcoholic. I think only the drinker himself/herself can ever truly know it or give words to it. Anyone else is generalizing, even a doctor. That’s my personal belief and I don’t refer to myself as an alcoholic. I think it’s way more complicated than that. I am happy to talk about my drinking with anyone who asks. You just don’t get to label something I haven’t labeled because you can never truly know me and what it’s like to feel my feelings, both physically and emotionally. You don’t have my brain chemistry. You don’t share my blood. You haven’t got my history or my memories. You don’t get to label me. Ever.

I am going to skip a lot of stories again here. Think of this writing more as a preface or introduction as you might see in a book before the chapters start. I might start writing in “chapters” following this but right now, the actual stories haven’t really separated themselves yet. I trust that will come as I embark on this potential writing project.

December 2019, I got to take my team of roughly 20 associates out for a celebratory dinner. I was their Manager and they had just come off a tumultuous period of team changes and upheaval, while delivering their best results yet which earned the team a few hundred bucks. Kind of the leadership I am also proud of known for. I also had regular budget money so I could actually afford more than just a token pizza lunch. I took them to a restaurant with great food and tons of beer choices. We had a blast. I let them order whatever they wanted and we only went about 100$ above budget which I paid from my own credit card. That said, it was a snowy night out so I watched their drinking very carefully to ensure they were all making safe decisions. They didn’t know I had ever been arrested for drunk driving but I knew it and it made me hyper aware of everyone else’s safety at all times.

They did great. They all stopped at 2 drinks which felt reasonable. I knew that was also my limit but I grabbed a third anyway. That’s what I do. When I start, it hits my bloodstream and brain so fast, I don’t have time to stop for reasoning; an unintended consequence of weight loss surgery 9 years before. They warn you post-op about the dangers of alcoholism and I think I went about 2 years after that surgery without drinking. It just wasn’t something which moved me. I overdid it in college….typical, cliched reaction to a strict upbringing. Once college was over, it wasn’t a big deal. I drank for fun in my 20s with friends but very rarely to excess. I just didn’t care that much about it. After surgery, once I tried it again, I didn’t stand a chance. The physical changes in my digestive system created quite the short cut strait to my brain and it was like someone else became in control of me.

So here I was, standing outside in my trendy, fake, white fur coat walking to my car as snowflakes landed on my hair. I knew I probably shouldn’t drive but was going to take my chances. Plus, I was going to kill time at the gas station…..buying cigarettes which I had quit 15 years before. I had been dabbling with it whenever I traveled in Europe and sometimes at concerts but never committed to it. I bummed butts from other people, didn’t buy my own. For whatever reason, I decided to do it that night. There is literally no rhyme or reason to that decision. I killed time ripping butts in the snow and eventually drove home with no issues.

That was the last time I drank.

I didn’t know then it would be my last round of Blue Moons. I had no intentions of quitting. Winters tended to be slightly less imbibing for me. I didn’t drink alone at home and went out less often in the winters. I had a couple concerts coming up in late January and late February which I figured would be drinking nights but a pretty tame season ahead. Drinking, bar hopping would start back up in the Spring.

What ended up happening is that I got really, really sick towards the end of January and most of February. When I went to the January concert, I only drank Diet Pepsi because I didn’t feel well. The next show in late February, I was still recovering from bronchitis and a sinus infection. Plus, word of Covid had just begun circulating and was all over the West Coast. Being the nerd and wannabe epidemiologist that I am, I was stressed about being in a concert venue in Boston. I just wanted to enjoy the show, keep people away from me and get the hell out of there. I almost didn’t go because I just wasn’t exactly sure the timing of when Covid would hit Boston and felt this show was cutting it close. It ended up being my last outing because Biogen started going wild with Covid just days later and next thing I knew, someone at work told me on 3/12 she might have exposed me to Covid so HR sent me home immediately to wait on symptoms. Next day, 3/13, the whole company got sent home and we were in quarantine indefinitely.

A few months into quarantine, as the weather got warmer, I was thinking about beer again. I thought it might be cool to treat myself to some good brewery beer and ended up perusing the Battery Steele website. I had been to that brewery the summer before when visiting my friend, Mark, in Portland and really liked their stuff. As I was looking for the kind I liked, I had also thought about how much weight I had lost since March…effortlessly. One of my friends thought it was the drop in stress cortisol because working from home turned out to be an unexpected blessing for me. While I am sure cortisol had a lot to do with it, secretly, I knew I also hadn’t been drinking since December and I’m pretty sure that also had a lot to do with it. Plus, I was approaching 6 months alcohol free which felt like an accomplishment I hadn’t planned on. I shut down the website and decided to wait and see.

That was over a year ago and I still haven’t had a drink. In total, it’s now been 19 months. I also haven’t had a depressive episode since working from home and my PTSD is triggered far less often. By the end of last year, I knew something significant was happening with my mental health in that I felt healthy for the first time in my life. While my job wasn’t the reason for my depression or PTSD, it was apparently a major trigger for frequent episodes of each….until I didn’t have to go into the office anymore. Absent the depressive episodes, daily anxiety attacks and alcohol, I had turned into the person I think I was always meant to be and I liked it. So did my family, my friends and co-workers. It even was the catalyst for the most productive, most successful period of my career.

When I read memoirs of former drinkers, each story is full of a range of horrific examples of negative drinking incidents for several chapters. Embarrassment, arrests, car wrecks, blackouts, lost loves, resentful children, lost jobs, bankruptcy….you name it. What they also all seem to have in common is the moment it stopped and they came out the other side. I don’t think any of them promise they won’t drink again but it’s kind of assumed in the way the write and celebrate their revelations and new lives.

I’m very uncomfortable with that. Throughout this entire period of sobriety, I have not once pretended I won’t go back to drinking. Nor do I refer to myself as an alcoholic. Binge drinker, absolutely. You won’t get any arguments from me on that aspect. But the door is still open and I think that’s not supposed to be the case for problem drinkers who have “quit.” I think you are supposed to reassure everyone that sobriety is what you always want from now on. Not to say there aren’t relapses in an alcoholic’s journey. There are and I think that’s an accepted danger everyone needs to be hyper vigilant about. I just can’t give you that, nor can I promise myself that level of optimism or shame myself for life changes and future choices I cannot predict.

I do know that I love being clear headed at all times. I’m smart and I like doing smart things. I’m an avid reader. I need to do crossword puzzles or word searches every night while watching tv. I’m a social justice warrior (title used in jest as it’s typically applied as something bad but I could give 2 shits if me caring about other people’s rights makes me a snowflake, SJW, tree hugger or whatever negative nickname selfish people have for it.) I enjoy not feeling like shit the next morning or wondering who I need to apologize to after checking my text messages and Facebook posts. I also very much enjoy dropping 2 pant sizes without any effort. I’m thinner than I have ever been, including high school. Every guy I have ever dated gave up way too soon because now I look like the girl you wish you were with and I am vain enough to gloat in that.

There’s a lot ahead. Getting back to seeing friends will be a new challenge because I don’t want to drink right now and all friends usually do is meet up for dinner and drinks. I will eventually get back to traveling. Trying new, international beers in foreign, local bars is a favorite part of my trips. It’s when I get to meet interesting people and, as an introvert, that’s not something I am terribly comfortable with. But I can do it in another country with strangers if I have a drink in my hands. My trip to Belgium was heavily focused on Belgian beer which I am most partial to. Spain, my favorite things in Spain are tapas and chiringuitos (sp.) on their beaches. My living room is literally deigned based off a beach bar we went to in Spain. And, I want to go back to Spain. Part of the tapas fun is getting a free appetizer for every round of drinks you order. What an insanely cool way to sample new foods and eat in the portion control way I am accustomed to.

Dates, assuming I ever have one again…what do I do on those? I’ve been on 1 sober date in my life and it was a daytime bike ride where I was unbelievably awkward the whole time. Ahead of it, I had to ask a friend for pointers on what to do and talk about because I had no idea. It was then the last date with that guy who married the next girl he dated. I have an ex who pops in and out throughout the years. Our last conversation didn’t go well when I insisted I didn’t want to have drinks with him. Haven’t heard from him since. I want to do concerts again eventually, when it’s safe. Who does a Lucero concert without drinking? The 2 don’t go together.

I’d like to focus on more daytime, physical activities but need a hip replacement first. That said, I am picturing myself as more of an organic, vegan eater. My kitchen is finally renovated and designed to cook in all day. I had my first experience growing my own vegetables this summer and managed to feed myself many dinner salads from that. Thing is, I don’t know how to cook too many things. I don’t have those kitchen instincts of knowing what can go together and I’m also a fussy eater which makes palate expansion a challenge. I also can see myself planning trips that don’t focus on alcohol. I want to do an African safari. I want to do a 3 week road trip through Australia. I want to do Norway and some hiking. If I can get a new hip, all those plans are on and I think I can do them without booze. But, it’s a question mark.

I am in perpetual recovery from binge drinking and major recurrent depression. I feel good about the trajectory of my depression but I also know, it takes literally nothing more than a gust of wind to alter it. It’s highly outside my control. I forever have images of Chris Cornell and Anthony Bourdain in the back of my mind. You can have everything and your depression can still get you. I look at alcohol the same way. I really don’t think any of us can ever do more than living in an actual moment and make choices in that moment. Accepting that tenet is frightening for people because it means there really isn’t a whole lot of control you have and lots of people actually believe they participate in behaviors which make them in control. Not true. Ever. Everyone has one thing that can slay them. It’s a just a question of if and when and sometimes it doesn’t happen for people. That doesn’t mean they prevented it. It just means it didn’t happen for them, but it could have.

That’s where I am. Not recovered because I don’t believe that’s a thing. There is no such thing as “coming out the other side for me.” It’s just where is I ve was and where I am now. Perpetual stages of recovery and making good choices when my brain allows for it is more what I can get behind. That level of unpredictably is hard for others to live with when considering my place in their lives but for me, it’s the calmest, most realistic place I have ever been.

I start with intentions but I can’t promise you what choices I will make. I cannot put that pressure and judgment on myself. I just need to live in the day I am in and trust my process which doesn’t include labels, promises or platitudes. It’s just a journey I’m on and I want to be open to writing about it because I need to be writing every day. It’s just something I need to commit to and throwing a little “preamble” out here today allows me the freedom to go back and relive all the little stories in whatever sequence they come back to me….which will not be in order of time or importance.


As I was loading my beach gear back into the car after another glorious beach day today, the woman who had pulled in next to me asked how crowded it was on the beach. I told her it was pretty busy but that I had just come from the corner which was quiet and she should head that way. In that moment, she realized I was a local, like herself, because I so quickly understood what she was asking. “How bad are the tourists today?” My direction was enough to clue her in that I was just like her. I mentioned they seemed worse this summer and she completely agreed. We talked about how she couldn’t make a left turn for 10 minutes trying to get here. I mentioned some of the interactions I have had with workers in local businesses being so grateful for me being polite and when they realized I was local, they would open up about their experiences with the tourists this year. She further validated this by telling me where her daughter works and how she comes home from work each day complaining about how entitled the tourists are behaving this year. It’s unlike any other year.

The conversation was very pleasant and we parted ways, wishing each other a great rest of the day. As she left, I noticed a bag of dog poop sitting next to her car that had been left there by a tourist (photo above.). What’s disturbing about this, beyond the fact it was within feet of a sign indicating no dogs allowed between a Memorial Day and Labor Day, is that even closer was a garbage receptacle. It couldn’t have been easier to just throw it out, erase all evidence of having given the middle finger to the beach rule. I couldn’t think of a better metaphor for the ever pervasive behavior of most tourists visiting this summer.

When I was a teenager, my parents were thinking about buying a house down here. I was adamantly against it to the point my father brought me with him to meet the real estate agent and look at houses to see if he could change my mind. My argument then was that it was such a crowded, overdone, elitist tourist Mecca. It’s where all the entitled rich people went every weekend and our family wasn’t like them. I protested greatly about the amount of time that would be wasted commuting back and forth with so many poor, entitled drivers. I wasn’t quite as articulate or “woke” on white privilege then as I am now but I think that’s the concept I was hinting at. My parents certainly didn’t need my permission to buy a house but I was pitching enough of a fit, they decided maybe I did need to be part of the process.

Once down here and seeing houses with my dad, I did start to envision what it might be like to live down here for the summer, get a summer job, learn how to sail a boat, go to the beach with my siblings. I was a good swimmer and even pictured becoming a lifeguard. While it was the dead of winter, my dad did take me for a walk on a beach near the house he really wanted. It was then I fell in love with the beach in winter. Nearly every year since then, I have found a beach for at least one winter walk. I don’t know if it was truly the Cape I fell in love with that day or just the time spent alone with my dad, not fighting (a very rare occurrence) but I got on board and told him it would be ok to buy the house.

When it got down to the wire, my parents decided not to go ahead with buying the house and, instead, decided to put a pool in at our Natick house. A few years after that, the real estate market and economy struggled to the point my parents were relieved at their decision. They said that had they bought the house, they would have eventually gone into debt and lost both houses. By adding a pool and having a house in very sought after, Natick, they profited exceptionally. When they sold the Natick house, they were able to buy 2 houses; one locally for the work week and one on a lake in NH. They were then able to continue profiting off the NH real estate to the point they traded up from a condo to a house and from a house to a land purchase where they built their dream house. The problem was, once they retired and moved to their dream house full time, they found themselves bored outside the summer season because it became a ghost town. When they realized they had a lot of friends on the Cape and that there could be year round activity, they moved down here.

I have now spent a good chunk of time down here over the past seven summers, moving here full time last August in the pandemic. My parents once mentioned they will probably have to sell their house to pay for a nursing home in the future. Because I had been coming down every weekend, I realized I could be helpful with some of the things they have lost the ability to do. I am also staunchly against my parents spending their last years in any sort of nursing home. They are remarkable people who deserve much better so I am here and prepared to take on additional responsibilities as they need. I will worry much less being 15 minutes away from them and having to commute back to the office a few days a week than how much I was worrying a few hours away and spending a bunch of time commuting on the weekends. The commute time will eventually be the same, just “flipped” in a way which allows me to both work and attend to aging parents without giving myself an ulcer. I had also been living in a Townhouse association which became a real nuisance when the Pandemic hit. Having to trust close neighbors to cooperate with social distancing and masks in common spaces wasn’t as easy as it should have been. It was a very “conservative” Trump town I had been living as it bordered New Hampshire.

I have a quaint little ranch house that’s smaller than the Townhouse but I have a huge yard and it’s all mine. When I step outside with the dog, I don’t have to worry that Covid danger is lurking right around the corner. I enjoy gardening and landscaping. For years, my dad said I could never handle owning a house because he couldn’t see me mowing a lawn or shoveling a driveway the way association fees covered for me at the Townhouse. Regardless, I have still spent the past 5 winters shoveling myself in and out of my parking spot in every storm because they started doing a very late and lazy job with it so my fees weren’t really getting me that much. Fast forward to buying my own house, I actually enjoy mowing my lawn and I only had to shovel once this winter. I am much happier having the fees back in my pocket and helping with my mortgage.

I haven’t gone out much since moving in becAuse of the Pandemic. Only this summer did I start going back to the grocery store. I have seen my family without masks and have been out to dinner 3 times; all with appropriately safe “bubble” people. I stopped wearing a mask from the beach parking lot to the sand. But I never stopped wearing my mask and rubber gloves any time I go to an indoor establishment. That turned out to be very smart considering the tourists brought another Covid surge down here – namely Delta, which we discovered is transmissible to and from vaccinated people because of our very own Provincetown getting over 800 cases right after the 4th of July. 75% were in vaccinated people. This means that amongst the non mask wearers were not just vaccinated tourists, but unvaccinated ones virtually “lying” about their safety to us.

I’m a beach girl. Have been my whole life. In fact, I think our parents taught us how to properly “beach.” When we were kids, the beach was a full day event and we knew we had to walk a long way on the beach because it was important to give others their space, especially when you have children with you. We complained every year about the walk and everything we had to carry. They didn’t make yuppie beach wagons back then. Coolers didn’t have wheels. Chairs were not collapsible and toteable like a purse. Since then, when I go to the beach, I don’t just drop my stuff in the first spot I see. I look for a space away from others and I expect them to do the same for me. The pandemic put this need into overdrive for me to the point I actually have trouble sleeping the night before the beach for fear I won’t get to the beach in time to find that remote space and keep the tourists away from me. Every day this week, I progressively started setting my alarm 30 minutes earlier just to get me beach spot and stop worrying.

My dad jokes that I’m a snob. I can’t deny that. I am very much a snob about my beach space and I do feel entitled because I live here. I have had depression my whole life as well as pretty severe anxiety. I have found the beach to literally be the only place where I can truly relax and breathe normally. I also have PTSD so having people behind me or too close and making me feel boxed in does cause me panic attacks on the beach. It sucks but I don’t need any more space than some 5 person family uses with their circus tents, toy wagons and giant Yeti coolers. I go to the end corner of the beach where the twigs, ticks and bugs are and set up my space far from prime, close to water beach space, so there really is zero reason for anyone to sit near me. There is plenty of space elsewhere so when they do it, it’s by inconsiderate choice …probably because they figure I am quiet and won’t disturb them. But they disturb the Hell out of me. Tourists only think of their own experience. My brain is hyperactive so I can’t focus on reading a book if I can hear someone else’s conversation or music nearby. I get physically very anxious when I find myself re-reading the same sentence over and over again. Plus, people need to hear this. NO ONE, not a local or a tourist, wants to listen to your music on the beach so either use ear buds or keep it off.

The beach is slightly better this year than last. When I first moved down here and decided this was my preferred beach, it was also the only public beach in Yarmouth. It’s very small with a small parking lot. During the pandemic, the rules on beaches were 12 feet between beach blankets, 6 feet between each other when walking/swimming and mask wearing when walking out of your blanket space. People were very obviously not doing this. In addition, fights between soccer moms were breaking out in the parking lot over who perceived should have been the one to get the last space. I had a woman intentionally try to run me off the road and when I got the spot first, she jumped out of her car (with Virginia plates) and started yelling at me. I couldn’t help myself, I yelled back “typical tourist.” She yelled back “what makes you think I’m a tourist?” I simply said “because the people who live here don’t treat each other that way and your Virginia plates, idiot” which shut her up.

Thankfully, the town recognized how awful this issue and the overcrowding were. People were parking on neighborhood streets, blocking owners’ driveways and walking in once the lot was full. There simply wasn’t enough room on the beach for them and they didn’t care. This year, the town made it a fee beach and once the lot is full you can’t come in. That has mostly improved the space issue meaning there is enough room for everyone to spread out. It’s just some people still don’t and sit on top of you. I had friends here last week visiting from Spain and we went to the beach on a particularly crowded day. I hadn’t seen It that packed all summer. Even still, I found a decent enough spot with space from others. As soon as my friend sat down, a new group came in and literally sat within inches of her, even kept moving their chairs closer to her to the point she had to move. I was so embarrassed. Her culture does not behave like that. I know because I spent time in her country where I was so blown over by the politeness and focus on quality of life I put it on my “someday if I move out of the country” list of places I would go.

Why are the tourists so awful and entitled this year to the point it’s very noticeable amongst all the locals and local businesses? I really don’t know. But it’s literally “the talk” down here. The businesses are definitely struggling with staffing. Traditionally, this is an area where students from other countries come to live and work over the summers to earn college money. Because of Covid, they can’t get their visas so it’s crippled the businesses. Most businesses are family owned and have their whole families pitching in. Wages have been increased to entice local teenagers to take the jobs. There was even a controversy with Chatham Bars Inn telling their workers to actively recruit from other bars and restaurants if they received good service. They were to give that waiter/waitress a business card and a promise of a generous sign on bonus which stole them away from that establishment in order to make sure the rich people at CBI weren’t inconvenienced by staff shortages. Heaven forbid they have to wait an extra minute for valet parking.

I am constantly hearing stories of 16 year olds being yelled and sworn at by adults. Every day at the beach, these teenagers have to do lifeguard rescues of stupid tourists who don’t educate themselves about the tides and ignore the signs of where they shouldn’t be swimming. I watched one rescue last week where the guy didn’t even thank the Lifeguard once they got back onto the beach. My friends and I saw 2 little girls nearly drown when lifeguards went out to save them. The first thing both my friends asked was “why aren’t their parents helping them?” That thought also crossed my mind but, unfortunately, I was used to seeing it. Most of the time, the parents aren’t paying attention and don’t even know the lifeguard running into the water is heading out for their kid. But honestly, the 2 little girls who were struggling, their father was there on the sandbar and he didn’t make a move into the water to help them. Yes, I get it would have been dangerous for him too but isn’t there a parental instinct which just kicks in? Not always. I guess he felt the lifeguards were a service he was entitled to, just like a Starbucks barista getting his coffee for him.

A couple days ago, another unparented child started drifting and couldn’t get back. A total stranger went after her and risked his own life while waiting for the lifeguard to come. He was a tourist. Occasionally, there are good ones. In fact, he was doctor so it makes sense he had a life saving instinct. But, he was also a parent and appeared to have that instinct too. He’s the only parent I have seen all summer respond to a child’s emergency and it wasn’t even his kid. Yeah, that’s how bad it is down here. Lifeguards are just now an expected service you get when you are ignoring your kids; like a nanny which most of these visitors are also accustomed to. I see plenty of them on the beach tending to the kids while mom and dad go God knows where and the kids just scream until they come back. A pleasant experience for the beach goers and nanny left behind.

I am certainly a product of white privilege. I am likely the youngest single woman owning a house down here. That’s privilege, for sure. I also feel entitled because I am a local. By no means am I a perfect little walk in the park. The Cape is an interesting place. People down here are either super conservative or super liberal. There is nothing in between complete hippie and a pickup truck with Trump stickers on it and American Flags draped off the back. Yet, we do co exist a little better than other locations where I have experienced this dichotomy. We do all seem to understand climate change has endangered our location which is usually a topic we do not agree upon on the other side of the bridge. We take pride in our environment as well as supporting local businesses. We treat each other with kindness and respect. We treat our service workers with kindness and respect.

I love living here and want to acknowledge those who work hard to make this such a great place to live. Without our service workers, we wouldn’t have such an eden we want to fiercely protect from the tourists. With that, I’d like to express thanks to the following people I have encountered on my 2 week “staycation.”

To the young man at Apple Nails in Harwich. You did a beautiful job. Thank you for wearing a mask, I am sorry that no other patrons outside my sister in law and I were wearing masks. I am sorry that the tourists have been rude and demanding to you. I am glad you were able to have a little respite working with us, civilized and grateful people. I told you then and will do so again now. Thank you for what you do. You are providing us with a privilege you certainly don’t have to and we are grateful. You deserve to be treated with respect by everyone.

To Black Sheep, I am sorry you have to post a sign outside asking the tourists to be patient with you due to being understaffed. Our waitress was lovely and very welcoming to my friends from Spain. Thank you also for wearing a mask, even outside when serving us.

To the young woman who was crying to her co-worker at Marshall’s yesterday afternoon, you work hard getting all those products on the floor and answering questions from people. I am sorry the patrons are so rude that you ended your work day in tears. I saw you and I appreciate you. There is no earthly reason I or anyone else “needs” throw pillows to the extent you should be that exasperated. I apologize that others don’t recognize this. Also, to the cashier who serviced me, you were a sweetheart and so pleasant. I am sure you ask every customer how they are doing and it gets exhausting but you sounded like you genuinely meant it. Know that when I asked you the same thing, I sincerely meant it as well.

To the helpers at Stop and Shop in the self service check-out. Yes, I know self service is controversial and said to be putting cashiers out of work. From my experience with the self checkout, I think this risk is a little further off considering how touchy the machine is. I have learned you can’t scan your items to fast or the system thinks you have out something in your bag without scanning it. That requires you to come over and punch in a code. Also, the weight limit on the bagging side causes issues if you buy bottled water and litter. Despite it telling you the limit has been reached in your scanned items, when you go to move the scanned kitty litter to your cart, the machine again thinks you are stealing so you have to fix that. And, fruits and veggies, god help me. I wear gloves so it’s hard to get the keys to register the letters I am trying to enter and that jams it up. You typically have to come over and help me 3 times while you hear me talk back to the machine that I did scan the item and I don’t need help. Also, what’s with the Radom food scarcity of tourists? It’s not predictable what food item they are going to clear the shelves of each week. One week it’s Dave’s bread, another week it was all the Pringle’s. Another week, only the non dairy ice cream. This week it was rice pilaf. WTF?

To the lifeguards at Gray’s. You are phenomenal. You are supposed to really just be able to sit there, get a tan and flirt with each other, maybe look for shark fins and lightning every once in awhile. I am sure your friends at the other beaches are having a little more fun than you. You work extremely hard. You are laser focused on every little moment and know you are about to go on a rescue seconds before it even happens. You are constantly having to tell other people’s children not to jump off the marsh into the water; parents nowhere to be found and blatant disregard for the sign in front of the marsh which says to stay off the marsh because it is environmentally sensitive.

To the “gatekeepers” of Gray’s Managing the fees and parking passes. THANK GOD FOR YOU! You are the best thing that has happened all summer. I can’t imagine how much flack you get from people when they realize there is a fee now or if you have to turn them away if the lot is full. By the way, last Saturday, the tourists were parking on the neighborhood streets again and walking in. I saw a bunch of it on my way out. You are absolutely seeing people walk in pretending to be renters within walking distance. They lie. They are probably also unvaccinated. The dishonesty thing seems to follow a certain pattern with the tourists.

Lastly, to whomever gets stuck picking up that bag of dog poop 4 feet from the trash, thank you. You shouldn’t have to do that. ALL dog owners know it’s our responsibility to pick up after our pets. Personally, I don’t understand why they bothered to even bag it if they weren’t going to take the next logical step of taking it to the trash. They don’t deserve to own a pet. If you want to own a dog, you resign yourself to picking up poop a couple times a day for the duration of your dog’s life. The extent to the pleasantry or lack of pleasantry on that depends on the size of the dog you choose.

I am re-addicted to caffeine and obsessed with the Wendy’s large Diet Coke. I go every day. During the pandemic, you were the only people I interacted with every day. Your workers are wonderful and are starting to feel like family. They know my order and who I am. They compliment my outfits, my earrings and even my masks as I pass through. Honestly, if my company would just allow full time remote work, you have at least 3 people I am ready to recruit because their customer service is top notch. You are doing something exceptionally right in your hiring and training.

On behalf of all the locals down here, grinning and bearing it, unable to make left turns until after Labor Day, I leave you with the bumper sticker I once saw on the bike trail in Chatham “I am not on your vacation.” I repeat this mantra in my head every time I leave the house, prepared to blurt it out whenever a situation finally escalates to the point I can’t keep it in any longer. I haven’t had to use it yet. So far, cordoning off a section of personal space on the beach with my windscreen seems to be getting the message across most days; except last Saturday when it didn’t work and I ended up leaving the beach early because the tourists ruined the day. Next time, though, I’m not leaving the beach. I’m going to quote the bumper sticker and see what happens.

I had the opportunity today to attend a presentation with two guest speakers who have PTSD. One is a military vet and the other a Marathon bombing survivor.

Believe it or not, I have never encountered another survivor before; outside of my unique group of friends from High School whom I have remained good friends with for 30 years. It was always really strange that out of this group of 7 or 8 women, I experienced it, one of my friends was running in it, another friend was working the event at the finish line, another works at one of the hospitals handling the ER trauma event portion of it and the last one someone who actually works counter terrorism. Then there was my sister in law who was running in it, her parents who were there from Nova Scotia and my sister. So there definitely is this immediate little world we all live in together that ties us together and feels unique.

That said, I have never met anyone else with a story like any of ours. I have never heard any stories of victims/survivors other than the ones where people died or were physically injured. The media never featured anyone with PTSD. It always felt very “only one” for me.

The day after, I went right back to work. I remember thinking I probably had a good reason to stay home that day but I had interviews scheduled and it would be hard for my peers to rearrange their days to pick up my slack. I never call out sick. Plus, I can’t lie so I didn’t know what I would say to my boss as the reason for calling out because I didn’t feel it was acceptable to say I was sick because I wasn’t. I have always looked back at that decision and thought process as one I regret.

I remember being so angry at work because it was all anyone would talk about. Everyone had to share their “where I was at that moment” story when none of them were there. It was a bunch of “I thought about going to the Marathon yesterday but didn’t.” Or, “my sister’s hairdresser was in Boston yesterday.” Lots of, “I was near there,” which when further probed into usually boiled down to at least 20 blocks away and completely unaware anything had even happened.

Many of those people knew I had been there but they talked about their stories like I wasn’t even in the room. It was so tone deaf. It wasn’t like I felt like I could speak up and share my details. I didn’t want to be a “one upper” in conversations which were clearly leaning towards a competition amongst them as to whose story topped the other. My story had me dead center in the middle of both bombs with the smell of burning hair on my clothes. This was not a competition I wanted to win. I was seething on the inside every day; absolutely incredulous at what they were subjecting me to- allowing their egos to be more important than my feelings as though these days weren’t any different from any others. I found myself every night that first week, stopping at bars on my way home from work to watch the news on the hunt for the remaining bomber. Strangers were more comforting than anyone I knew.

Having such vivid memories today of that week, I actually stepped away from the computer for 2 hours this afternoon to decompress; the choice I didn’t make back then and should have. Honestly, I think another reason I went to work that day was I didn’t think it was good to be alone. Being with people at work seemed like it would be helpful to me but I wound up feeling more alone there than anyplace else in the world. Funny, 8 years later I realize I am only healthy working remotely. Today, I made a different choice. I decided to indulge in an outside shower and then laid on the hammock in the sun to dry off.

What has been happening since I went to the hammock is surreal. Fortunately, my therapy appointment got rescheduled from yesterday to today because I basically went on a 45 stream of consciousness rant on all the memories which started coming up for me today. You’d be surprised at what they are because they aren’t all from the bombing.

My therapist was actually able to provide me with a scientific explanation of what was happening with my brain. She said it’s kind of like something got pricked at the bottom of the ocean, and while a small puncture, oil began seeping out and rising to the surface where it started to spread in a way there was no one place to contain it. She explained the brain actually works that way. I had a little puncture to the part of my brain which processes trauma and it’s not like the brain knows exactly which trauma to focus on. It just kind of opens the lid and a bunch of traumatic moments, which have been stored in there for a lifetime, just ooze it without any sense or structure as to which ones get loose.

Here’s a list of stuff that came out:

In high school, I remember laying on my bedroom floor crying in pain. My parents didn’t do anything about it. First, they thought I was exaggerating just to get out of going to school. Also, they had recently discovered I had been having sex with my high school boyfriend and this was probably just some consequence of that and that I deserved it. After an entire day like that, my mother finally caved and took me to the ER. Turns out I had an ovarian cyst. Nothing to do with teenage sex and insanely painful.

A number of other random injuries and illnesses over the years where I had suffered for hours and even days at a time before my parents would take me to the hospital because, again, I was just faking it or being dramatic. Once we did go to the hospital, there wasn’t one time I didn’t have a legit, diagnosable issue which required immediate treatment.

The time we were playing hide and seek outside and I was hiding behind a bush when my dog ran through the bush at full speed and hit my knee with her skull. She had dislocated my kneecap and I had to wear a brace for 6 weeks after that. To this day my mother actually likes to tell the story about how she never would have believed me if she didn’t happen to be pulling into the driveway at that very moment and see it happen herself. In that statement, she basically admits to never believing anything I said and alludes to the fact I would have been ignored and left in pain for several hours until I could finally wear them down to take me to the hospital.

My knees always hurt as a kid. Supposedly, it had something to do with me being lazy and not playing sports, probably from being overweight as well. First, I wasn’t believed about this pain but as if they needed “insurance,” the stipulation was added that if I really was in pain, it was somehow my fault. It wasn’t until I had the dog-knee injury that I was able to tell a doctor about this constant pain. Wouldn’t you know, I had a defect in both of my knees that I had been born with? The doctor performed surgeries on both knees by the time I was 16.

In my senior year of college, I became extremely exhausted, like beyond normal for a kid that age. I couldn’t get out of bed, I was skipping and failing all my classes. When I told my parents something was wrong, they first attributed it to just partying and being irresponsible. Then, they remembered how I didn’t want to go to college in the first place and all the fighting over that. They decided that me telling them I might need to drop out of school was my way of getting back at them for making me go in the first place.

They wouldn’t let me drop out but when they found out a student could take a medical leave, they took me to see a doctor. That was their compromise. Probably figured I wouldn’t be able to get a doctor to provide the school with the necessary documentation. Backfired. I was severely anemic. So much so, I was immediately referred to an Oncologist for Leukemia testing and a bone marrow biopsy. I was also having severe GI issues and had to get a colonoscopy at age 20, an endoscopy as well. So many procedures and tests were done and we never really got an official diagnosis. The GI doctor felt like there was probably IBS which my mother found acceptable because she had it at my age from extreme stress in her life. Obviously, I didn’t get a cancer diagnosis so we just moved on. I left school and then went to work full time. When I think back on that time now, I am pretty sure it was actually a major depressive breakdown and because I couldn’t tell my parents about feelings, my body started destroying itself to get attention. My therapist said the same thing tonight. As I was describing it, she immediately identified it as depression.

My assault trial. My parents asked me not to press charges because of how difficult a court case would be. I did it anyway. Heading towards the trial, I often felt the sense I was being followed and watched. I was. The criminal had hired a PI to see if they could get dirt on me. A few years after all that, I was having a drink in a bar with my cousin who asked me how I felt about my father having PTSD and seeking VA treatment. That was the first I had heard of it. Aside from my mother,I was THE most impacted member of my family by my father’ problems. Like, severely. Instead of telling me, he told his sister and her kid who assumed I knew. When I told my cousin I hadn’t known that, she asked if I knew about the time my rapist’s parents called my parents to get them to influence me to drop the charges. Nope. That was also kept secret from me. Not to mention, there was always an element of bad blood between me and my cousin as we were only a year apart in age. We had a complicated relationship over the years and my father knew damn well that her having that kind of knowledge before me would be a massive betrayal.

During the trial, my father and my friend, Nicole, went to the courthouse with me every day. At first, I think he was going so he could hear the story to try and determine if I was telling the truth or not. I certainly don’t think he expected to hear me attacked as mentally incompetent and a person capable of fabricating stories simply because I had a medical file with evidence of past therapy and was a writer in college. Actually, interesting irony happening here. Anyway, I don’t remember what my father said to me one afternoon but I do specifically remember Nicole speaking up to my father to correct him on his perceptions of me. Something along the lines of “not sure what your issue with your daughter is but I know her as the bravest, most selfless person I have ever met. She is doing this to protect future victims and because of the guilt she felt about the victims which came after her. You need to stop treating her the way you do and have some respect for how strong she is.”

I receive victim’s compensation assistance from the state of MA. I don’t tell people that because I am ashamed of it. Someone with my job, my salary, my benefits, my privilege and station in life shouldn’t need extra money when there are so many people less fortunate than me. I am deeply, deeply ashamed of this. Additionally, if people know what the money went towards, they would judge me as further privileged. I needed the money for therapy co-payments, monthly massage, acupuncture, yoga classes and chiropractor appointments. That makes me sound like a suburban soccer mom. Thing is, that’s all the shit that helps me manage the physical and mental effects of living with PTSD and I live hand to mouth because I am on a single person’s income. Sure, I have a house, car, amenities just like all of you have. But I’m not splitting the cost with anyone. I haven’t even been able to find money from my paycheck to put in a savings account until we went into quarantine last year and I wasn’t spending money on gas or the car. So yeah, I need the assistance.

Do you remember what I did before I figured out all these techniques to better manage my PTSD? I went to the bar every night, binge drank and then drove home. I got arrested for DUI, lost my license and continued going to the bars by calling cabs when I couldn’t drive for 8 months. I got so drunk one time, after the DUI, I fell and hit my head on the toilet when I was trying to stick my fingers down my throat and purge my dinner out. I knocked myself unconscious and woke up in the hospital with a bunch of staples in my head. What’s worse? That or monthly massage?

When I don’t appear approachable at work because someone interrupts me unexpectedly, I am branded and not considered for a promotion. I am discussed as someone with negative behaviors. It has impacted my job prospects multiple times over several years. Those “negative behaviors” are because someone tripped a PTSD trigger at work and I was considerate enough to never tell them because I didn’t want anyone to know I had it and I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I am just as capable as everyone else, sometimes more. I just have to approach things differently from others. I’m not a bad person. I have a bad problem.

I don’t know what personal hurdles other people experience in their lives so by no means am I assuming I have it harder than anyone else. But I did ask my therapist tonight why it always feels like I have to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro every day just to be believed and validated. I asked her if I was being naive and that everyone experiences this. She simply said “no, most other people don’t experience that.” So I asked her why me. Not out of self pity. I told her the myriad of things I am grateful for. I am strong enough to handle these things when many others are not. All the times friends tried to tell me to get over the bombing or that there should be a timeline on talking about it or an end date to the PTSD, I had the good sense not to buy into that because my dad has had PTSD for 50 years. I’m not an idiot. I know there is no timeline for this and I know you never get over it. You can only learn to integrate it and manage it which both he and I are doing at the same time.

She went back to the oil spill. She pointed out all these examples I listed earlier. She told me I was traumatized as a child, over and over again. That my parents had some very strange beliefs and hang ups, probably from their own parents, which made them think it was ok to let their child be in pain for hours and days at a time while blaming that child for the issue or believing she was lying. I understand that which is why I am not sharing these examples to shit on my parents. I understand and empathize everything they did good and bad. I have long moved past the age where it’s ok to feel sorry for yourself and blame your parents for all your problems. There does come a time when you need to realize what you are in control of and to focus on the future, while allowing yourself to accept their imperfections are true of your past and you learn to forgive and love them for who they are now. They are my best friends now.

Regardless, my brain has stored away all these traumatic experiences I never think about and it just keeps them all together in one box. Going back to the marathon today through the eyes and voice of someone else opened the box. Perhaps it had something to do with the common threads of our stories. Intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, assuming you are only experiencing a problem because you have always had mental health issues like depression….this is just a defect because of that. You weren’t “injured.” Your friends tell you things like “you just need to choose to be happy.” Or “this is the 3rd year you have talked about it, at some point you just need to move on and stop thinking about it so much.” Or, the people making their own comments on my social media about how I need to realize other people have problems too. No shit. I went through 2 rape trials for other people, not myself.

I kind of assume it goes without saying that if I am sharing a feeling or frustration of my own, everyone knows there is an asterisk in front of it stating that I am aware we all have problems and don’t think myself a “winner” of suffering over anyone else. In fact, anyone who truly knows me knows that I don’t do competition with other people. I loathe it. You can look back over just about every experience in my life and not find any examples of me trying to compete against anyone else. The one time a woman decided to compete with me over a guy, I was utterly destroyed and still think about it over 20 years later. I conceded very quickly on that front. The fact he kept coming back wasn’t due to any of my own machinations or manipulations. That was all her game.

The only competition I indulge in is that against myself….to see if I can overcome and succeed against myself just a little better than the day before. It’s downright hateful, insulting and patronizing to ever try to tell me I don’t know what others are going through or that I haven’t considered other people have problems. I have been in therapy my entire life because I empathize with people who hurt me. I actually try to imagine how bad their circumstances are in order for them to behave the way they have to hurt me. Do you know what that does to a person? To not only have to process my own shit but also understand why someone else did it to me and process their shit too? Jesus H. Christ. Who do you think I am? You don’t think about me at all. That’s the problem.

My therapist praised me for taking “time off” this afternoon and that it’s good this flow of weird stuff is coming out of my brain. My old approach would have been to just work through it, stuff it down and then allow it to unleash somewhere later, usually a work trigger that someone could salivate over in order to give me a brand so they don’t have to consider me for anything. She said this will probably continue for a few more days. Random memories that seem disparate from one another….like going from remembering a bombing straight to an ovarian cyst.

The trauma experience is very similar. The way I processed and was processed by others after the bombing is making me remember all the times I was dismissed and in pain as a child. I look at all my friends with kids right now. I can’t imagine a one of you telling your kid to wait it out if they tell you they have been injured or are in significant pain. You will take them to the doctor simply because you suspect something they haven’t even mentioned. Think about the last bone break or illness requiring a prescription that your kid experienced. How long did it take you to respond? Then, imagine you didn’t.

I have a lot more of that in my brain than I am consciously aware of. I think it’s kind of the filter in which I profess life. It’s easy to point to the bombing because everyone saw that happen on tv so people can somewhat understand why a person wouldn’t be totally right after something like that. Plus, that’s a real thing for me no one denies. But it also attaches itself to a lot of other moments where I had similar feelings and they don’t process themselves one item at a time as I call them up. I never really understood this until today. This is a very strange experience right now….like little traumas just popping up in random clouds above my head every few minutes while at the same time being scientifically aware of what my brain is doing. Kind of reminds me of my second knee surgery when I woke up in the middle of the surgery. I was still wacko out of it and I couldn’t feel pain but I could feel pressure and the sensation of the little scissors next to my knee. I remember seeing a video screen showing the inside of my knee and then they knocked me out again.

“Not saying it’s easier to feel it all or nothing at all.”

I am the model student of a pandemic. I have always been germophobic. I have always had a healthy distrust of others getting too far into my personal space. I am naturally introverted and being home alone is not a punishment for me. I’m 14 months in and haven’t been bored yet. I have been doing life on my own for a long time that reading a book, binging Netflix, takeout, web surfing are how I normally fill my time. Aside from the long term health effects and death stuff, I couldn’t have been happier this year. Everyone has always treated me like the oddball and this past year, they had to enter my world and try living it.

When we went into quarantine, I had still been going back and forth about booking my annual vacation to another continent. That was traditionally the same week, every year, that I pulled out the credit card and made the commitment. I gave myself another 2 weeks to watch the pandemic play out, somehow thinking it might show signs of resolving itself and I could still squeeze that trip in.

I also had outstanding concert tickets for the Motley Crue/Def a Leppard/Poison Fenway show in a August. $600 no less. I also had tickets for Greg Dulli’s new album release in September. Not to mention, hadn’t decided which show to fly to Red Rocks for in August. I don’t think I believed all of that wouldn’t happen. I started to feel really bad for my favorite indie artists because they aren’t exceptionally wealthy off club tours. When Dulli refunded my concert ticket I actually wanted to send the money back to him because I felt like he needed it more than me.

I learned to enjoy working from home. I was afraid of it at first. For some reason I thought I lacked the discipline to manage a full day while in my house. With depression, I get extreme exhaustion and have found that if I am not constantly busy, I can literally just doze off. I worried that I’d fall asleep at home and miss all my meetings because I had never had “down” time before. “Down time” in the office was somehow a beacon calling everyone to drop by, unannounced and leave a dumpster fire on my lap. Admittedly, my first day home, I did fall asleep on the couch for a couple hours and panicked that I’d keep doing it.

Turns out, that seemed to just be an isolated moment of my body catching up from all the anxiety of that week. I got sent home before everyone else did because I had learned of potential exposure. Literally got sent home immediately; allowed only to grab my purse and laptop then March right out without saying a word to anyone. It was creepy.

After the initial couple of days, I started a routine. I stayed true to work all day but between meetings would do one household chore a day…like throw out one bag of trash a day so I could prepare for possibly moving and try to reduce the overwhelm of leaving all the projects for the last minute. Doing one small thing a day was extremely manageable and helped immensely when I did make the overnight decision to move to the Cape.

I started to enjoy working from home. I actually liked the routine and having something to fill my days with. Additionally, in the absence of in office chaos, I discovered I had several massive anxiety and depression triggers occurring in the office which were preventing me from performing at my best. At home, I grew into the person I believe I may have been meant to be without anxiety, depression a PTSD and ADHD. It led to the most productive part of my career. Relationships with coworkers grew to deeper levels. My confidence sky rocketed. I started raising my hand for all sorts of things I wouldn’t have thought of in the office. It’s been so healthy that my doctors feel very strongly I remain remote long term.

I took my last drink in December of 2019. 3 Blue Moons which led me to buy cigarettes that night. I quit smoking 15 years prior but have dabbled with it when traveling. I hadn’t planned on that being my last drink. I hadn’t considered quitting drinking ever. But, I don’t drink at home alone and January/February were quiet, blah months. I got really sick so even the few concerts I did go to, I stuck with soda. Then, quarantine. I didn’t have any beer at home and I didn’t want to go out and buy it. So I just didn’t think about it. Before I knew it, I was 6 months sober. I told myself I hadn’t entirely quit and might drink again someday, but, for now, I was committed to keeping it going. I had dropped 2 pant sizes and was loving that which motivated me.

As of now, I’m about a year and half sober. I’m thinner than ever and look super good for my age. I enjoy being clear headed all the time. While I can be a very fun, adventurous drunk…I also act like a bonehead and it’s embarrassing to look back at how I acted and the situations I put myself in. It was nice not waking up with post binge drinking anxiety…”did I seriously go out without underwear on, fall in a bar and show everyone my vadge?” Yes. Granted, it was a gay bar so they were unphased and were hitting on my boyfriend all night. Still, it did happen and I grossed them all out. Not sure what’s worse….turning on an entire bar of gross dudes or turning off an entire bar of grossed out, gay men. Either way, the boyfriend and I broke up within a week of that. We couldn’t survive that night.

Everyone loves me during the pandemic and is rooting for me all the time…except Trump supporters. I spent a good chunk of time vilifying them on social media up through the election and called them racists. They didn’t appreciate that. But, I would have done that drunk too. There just would have been a few more spelling mistakes. And, I might have given in and still slept with one of them if we had been hanging out at a bar. They LOVE the challenge of “turning” a woman to anything she says she doesn’t want to be. I learned that 8 years ago with a married man. The second I said I would never sleep with a married man is the moment he thought “challenge accepted” and pursued me like a hot mess.

Overall, I really, really like this me. I love my advocacy and civic engagement. I love my job more than ever. I love that my friends and family don’t have to worry about me at all. But there are some things I have had to do to manage myself. For one, I adore music. I get all the feels from music. After I listened to the Greg Dulli album for the first time, I realized the feelings were too intense to process when there was no light at the end of the tunnel for getting back to concerts.

My music also carries lots of flashbacks and reflections associated with specific time periods and people in my life. It’s painful to think about people I have lost and it was painful to think of people I loved and couldn’t see Indefinitely. Anytime I listened to music I felt overwhelmed so I stopped. The sheer fact I am writing tonight is because I accidentally opened Pandora’s box by listening to a live performance which popped up in my feed. I have now spent the last 3 hours listening to my favorite bands and watching clips of live performances. I am having so many feelings of sadness and longing right now. These feelings can be so intense they frighten me and make me worry I could slip into a depression very quickly. I am feeling that all right now.

I have loved 3 men in my life. 2 of them were decent relationships with good guys and we just didn’t work. One of them I am still friends with and cherish. The third was really, really messy and bad for me. I had dated him in high school when I was rebelling against always being a “good girl” and he showed up again 20 years later right after my dad had been diagnosed with cancer which completely gutted me. I didn’t want to be a good girl anymore. I was so tired of always doing the right thing and still ending up in pain. I was actively looking to be around people who would not hold me accountable. There he was.

He encouraged my recklessness and riskiness. My poor choices were turn ons for him. He liked to “win” at breaking me against my own rules. He is a deeply damaged person. Not his fault at all. But, he has never taken healthy steps to own his issues and improve himself. He needed the validation of breaking me down to behave at his level in order to feel good about himself. Despite all my drunkenness, I was fully aware of this dynamic. Still, I loved him so much. I saw through all that bullshit to the damaged little boy inside him. When he would let his guard down, he was devastatingly beautiful on the inside. He could be really cold and nasty to me. If he didn’t like something I said to defend myself, he’d just stop talking to me completely. We would never resolve anything. It got really ugly. Yet, if weeks later, I were in trouble an hour away from him at 1 am, he’d show up. No questions asked. No matter what horrible thing one of us had just recently done to the other, it only took one SOS text and he’d respond within a minute. He’d leave whatever he was doing and he’d be there. No one has ever shown up for me like that. No one. Not even once. I still madly, achingly love him if only for that one thing.

I have carried a good deal of resentment towards him over the years. In fairness, he has carried quite a bit of anger towards me as well and he’s justified in it. When I love, I can also deeply maim. I had done that to him. Despite that, we seem to check in on each other about once a year. I remember once being drunk, alone in a bar. I hadn’t talked to him in a year and the last things we said were nasty. I texted him “I am just so depressed.” I had no reason to expect a response. Although, he craves attention so I figured I would get one but that it would be a nasty continuation of what was last said. He’s big in rubbing my face in shit and shame and he is an attention whore. I was somewhat right. He did respond right away. He cannot control himself. But it was incredibly kind and supportive. I loved him intensely again in that moment. And then we didn’t talk again for another year.

Even still, when he does reach out to me, I have learned he is testing the waters to see if I will take him up on meeting for a drink. Translation, meeting up in Boston, doing shots and taking shots at each other until he switches to something really charming and makes me laugh which results in arrest worthy sex somewhere we shouldn’t be having sex. He wants to break me. I have resisted each time.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still care about him and how he is doing. I have had exponential growth over the years and sometimes wish he were proud of me for that. I miss our friendship and banter. I know he has not fared as well so I think about him from time to time. I reached out to him a couple weeks ago to see how he was doing. He literally responded within 5 minutes and the conversation immediately went to a drink conversation and a very sexy reference to a parking garage in Boston, I too, have never forgotten. But this time I told him I would love to meet up but am not drinking anymore. I also set my boundaries that I am not looking to hook up. At this time in my life, I am only entertaining serious relationships possibility. He seemed to interpret this as a proposal to him for a relationship which it most certainly wasn’t. I just didn’t want him going into this looking for his challenge and being disappointed that I really wasn’t open to it. I wasn’t playing. This somehow devolved into an ultimatum from him and I responded pretty strongly about my standards for myself.

No response. Typical. Hears something he doesn’t like and shuts me out entirely. I was going to just let it go but it bothered me. I reached out a week later to apologize if I had upset him. I then told him that if he is upset with me over something in the past that it’s ok, I will be accountable and am willing to talk about it which I never was in the past. I only asked that we then resolve it and not keep bringing it up every time we connect. I also stated that I cared about him as a person and was hoping we could cultivate our friendship in a respectful way. I did tell him I thought he liked challenging and breaking me as some kind of power or control and I wasn’t ok with that. But I also owned the fact all my past behaviors gave him a right to assume otherwise. I’m not lying when I tell you how much I have grown. I expressed that I was very proud of who I have become and that I now prefer to work through conflict, not ignore each other. Lastly, it would be polite if he would respond even if we don’t agree and that if he doesn’t then he must be confirming he didn’t ever actually see me as more of a person than simply a challenge.

Haven’t heard from him. So I overestimated how he viewed me or, he just cannot handle a woman who has boundaries, will call him out on his BS but still be able to love him. I don’t think anyone has ever really loved him. He literally married a chick he met at the beer stand of a Patriots game who flashed her tits at him. I know, not quite my type. I think they each served a purpose to one another but I don’t think he has ever been loved. He has been used and he used them. If I would let him use me now, I guarantee he’d be sitting on my couch tonight instead of me writing.

Why am I sharing all of this and what connections do all these things have with the pandemic? The pandemic makes it so easy for me to be a happy, peaceful chick who plants vegetables and bakes cookies on Sundays. The girl everyone wanted me to be, including me.

But all my chaos, addictions and adventure are still there. If I come out of this bubble, how long will it take before I drink and start putting myself in situations which make me want to drink? If I were sitting across from him having a drink, how many moments of charm before I gave in and banged the shit out of him? Because I’m still that girl who likes to bang the shit out of guys when the passion hits. I just haven’t had to encounter anyone because of quarantine. I worry I am just one mask less liaison away from a hotel room with a stranger.

I quit drinking a year and a half ago…the night I bought butts for no reason, I didn’t give up the butts during the quarantine. That girl is very much still here. I suddenly have the intense urge to be traveling again. I have started looking at trips, even if I need to make myself hold out another year.

Listening to music tonight has me aching for one of my shows right now where I “pretend” I have to find my friends in front of the stage which is how I get to front row and don’t really have any friends there. There is AlWAYS a guy meet up when doing this. We get drunk, we dance the whole night, sometimes even exchange numbers and see each other for a bit. I want my Fenway sausage after a House of Blues show which I usually only take 2 bites of before throwing it out the window on 93 at 2 am.

With my ex, we had code words and code songs. If he posted one in Facebook, it meant he was somewhere nearby and I had to get in the car and find him. If I checked into a bar with my friends, within an hour, he would suddenly be sitting at that bar waiting for me to secretly meet up with him by the bathroom and give him the key to my house where he’d wait for me to come home. It was sexy as hell to know he was watching me and to not tell my friends he was there. I really miss that and yet know not to let it happen again. Sometimes I wonder why. It’s not like holding out for a healthy relationship has actually ever yielded one. Additionally, even if I did score a healthy relationship, I’d still want those secret games. I have always lived two lives at the same time and I adore having those secrets with a lover. I feel most alive.

It’s intense right now…this sudden pull back to her. I thought I put her out like a cigarette. But she’s there. She wants a concert. She wants to play some games. She wants to draw a guy in and see how fast she can score. She wants some Blue Moon, some Battery Steel, a Devils Purse Kolsch. She wants to flirt with the devil because her good/evil dichotomy is what’s so mysterious and appealing about her. Seriously, men can not resist it. It’s so much fun. I just don’t like when I have to examine the behavior of the night before. That’s the downside I am trying to keep out of my life.

So, yeah. I legit have physical health fears about unleashing the masks and the unvaccinated. I worry about my mental health if I return to the office. The literal daily talk at work on that topic causes me daily anxiety. But worse than all of that is the anxiety of how to manage me when I can taste access to my old world. I woke up Sunday morning with that wanderlust and itching for a secret again.

Listening to Afghan Whigs tonight and while I write has awoken that “savior of misbehavior” they sing about. You can literally find a piece of my personality in every single song they have written. To know me, really know me is to listen to them. No other artist encapsulates me like they do. Listening to them tonight has completely aroused me towards my old life and what I want back. I’m also, admittedly, a little heartbroken that my dangerous love from that time period can’t adjust to the good me because I know the good me is actually really good for him. I keep thinking back to that time in High School when his parents met my dad at a college fair and gushed about how much they loved me, that he never dated anyone they liked or who might be good for him. They practically begged my dad to ensure I stay with him. I had completely forgotten about this until this week. But, he always wins. He’s my devil and if I’m upset about him winning right now, do I stand any chance against myself?

In a conversation with my boss today, I use the phrase “I was born for this.” It was in response to me updating her on my project work and why it’s been causing me migraines.

I have an amazing opportunity to influence how we design the workforce of the future. I’ve landed on some pretty sweet projects requiring someone articulate and able to connect different viewpoints, to ask tough questions and suggest new ways of thinking. That’s me. I was born for it.

A lot of people figure out what they were born to do many decades before me. I’ve always been this person, an “other.” But it’s not popular. Parents and community are unprepared and ill equipped for it. Plus, when you are young and and sometimes mentally ill, all your amazing traits of empathy, defiance, independence, emotional intelligence, questioning authority can come out very clumsily to a audience not primed to receive it in this “caterpillar” format.

The people parents and society desperately pray for is the Big Man On Campus (BMOC) and the Homecoming Queen(HQ.). To get either of those means your kid is born attractive, socially acceptable, maybe some athletic prowess….they will be popular and easy. You will be friends with lots of “cool” parents. In reality, there are lots of “others” out there and they don’t have a big voice because they don’t get the encouragement of being awarded a tiara every year or being the captain of everything. They shrink into whatever category they have been assigned and try to survive. Parents dread ending up with the “other” kid because it’s a depressing, uphill battle trajectory with carpool whispers attached.

BMOC and HQ are often white with privilege. While I don’t say they don’t work hard for what they attain, they believe their hard work is what has afforded them all their fortune. Because they are shielded from being “others” they are conditioned to believe anyone without their level of fortune simply hasn’t worked hard enough. In fact, they simply have far fewer obstacles and aren’t required to work all that hard for their gains. They don’t know that everyone else is working just as hard or harder but being held back because of whatever it is that defines their otherness. They really do believe everyone just needs to act like them and they too can be popular and successful. It’s actually kind of sad how surprised they are when someone tries to explain white privilege to them.

While I’m sure some of them are intentionally mean, racist or snobby, I believe most of them are nice people who mean no harm. They were born into a protected, silver platter neighborhoods and schooling was pretty secure from being exposed to people of color. After all, their neighborhoods were purposely designed to protect them and keep people of color out. All they had to do was not be born with some disfigurement and they were guaranteed a good life.

They also make up a very small, but powerful part of the workforce. They have the big titles and they have a certain way of wanting to work. Often extroverted, they need to be in the physical space of others. They need adoration and to hear their own voices out loud. The need to be able to shout out whatever comes to mind because once they are in a quiet space, nothing new is coming in like it does for introverts. They don’t do well in isolation. No one there to pat ‘em on the back or to laud their newest idea. No one to talk to about golf or Tom Brady.

The majority represent everyone else….like 90% of everyone else and while they don’t mind popping into the office here and there, they don’t want it to be mandated or put in percentages. They mush rather remain in a very thriving remote environment because it has leveled the playing field. They are only a Zoom away from a contact. They don’t need to rely on bumping into someone in the hallway hoping to be invited out for golf to get their next promotion. That approach only works for BMOC and HQ. BMOC and HQ don’t know what to do with themselves now. They have never had to adapt to build other skills other than public adoration and saying the right thing in front of the right passerby. And they want everyone back in the office with them as much as possible.

That’s just not what people want. While there’s still a lot of diversity work to be done, regional boundaries have been shattered. People are collaborating all over the country, even internationally, with diverse people they never would have met depending on geographic location and in person office meetings. The mentally ill, the introverts, those with attention deficit disorders are having their best career moments of their lives now. I am one of them. I am in the position to speak and advocate for all the rest of them.

The migraines comes from the constant brain washing drip which has started from BMOC and HQ saying “ we will be back in the office…”. “When we are back in the office….” “ we value collaboration and face to face contact so we will be in office at least 50% of the time.” in the meantime, the 90% are screaming on the inside and asking “what collaboration? You have never collaborated with me. In fact, I am only now experiencing collaboration through the remote environment.” I represent the 90% but I have to present to BMOC and HQ and somehow try to bring them along to accommodate the majority. It’s a massive, stressful, tightrope walking responsibility. But I was born for it. I can speak for the majority. I just have a gift for it.

The complication is that while I am representing multiple points of view and trying to massage this situation in the best interest of the most people, I have my own personal needs to consider. Remote work has virtually cured my mental health issues, or at least filed them appropriately so there is room for the real me to come out and she is an absolute wonder. A marvel of brilliance, a unifier, a pattern identifier with oratory skills better than any well coached President of the United States. She’s always been in me but the noise, the lack of personal space, no boundaries, being fired at constantly, she can’t even breath let alone be creative or thoughtful in an In office environment. I have always known what my problems are but I had no idea how truly “sick” I have been until this last year when I have finally become a normal, healthy person.

Because I need to consider my health and it’s impact to my family, I know that if I can’t influence the environment the way the others need it to be, I have a parachute. I can easily get an accommodation requiring I never have to set foot in the office again. I have 2 doctors who practically wants to write books about me right now who are insisting I don’t go back.

I now understand the quandary my sister was experiencing just before the election. Trump spent the last 4 years strategizing ways to set the government up so that LGBTQ could eventually be stripped (same thing with the rights of women and the Black community.). It was a very well planned attack and the pawns had all been put in place so that if he won, we’d start moving to the next phase….very similar to Hitler’s Germany. For real.

Many members of the LGBTQ community are considering their options for leaving the country to flee to safety. My sister and her family were definitely among them. They have a solid Canada connection to guarantee 100% safety for my sister in law and the kids, probably about 75% odds in favor of my sister too. We told her to go. Her conflict was in feeling like she couldn’t abandon all the other members of their community just because she had a parachute. She felt obligated to stay and fight. For us, we just wanted her to be safe and at that point integrity and personal sanctimony became second priority to us when those are the values we live on. Love and protection were bigger to us.

Approaching adulthood with depression, my parents insisted that nobody stayed home from work because they were sad, nobody stayed in bed all day. No one was going to financially support me like that and I wasn’t allowed to be a drain on society. As harsh as that sounds, I’m supremely grateful for that. I’d rather be a high functioning depressive who is able to support myself than couch surfing my way through life because I can’t hold down a job. I feel terrible for people in that situation but they also serve to frighten the shit out of me enough that I can employ doctors to buffer me through what it takes to “keep up appearances.”

Last weekend my father told me to get an accommodation. That is quite a statement. I am certain my family has always had to worry about me a little more than the average family. Now I get the feeling they’ve all been sleeping with one eye open every winter praying I get through my depression without getting arrested, cracking my skull open from falling on a toilet or dying. I feel awful about that. How different a person was I appearing as in all my depressive episodes? Truthfully, I never thought I’d live this long but I purposely never tell anyone that because I assume they aren’t thinking the same thing. I thought I was doing a better job putting them at ease.

Here’s the thing. It’s great knowing I have a parachute. Granted, pulling it would end my career. I’d be able to keep my job but I’d never advance and they’d just keep me there until some “random” lay-off that only seems to wipe out people with FMLA cases, over a certain age or perennially bad performers who also have bad managers who never told them that or tried to help them get better. All companies are like this. While I’m still a little too ambitious to keep myself engaged and challenged to ever want to have to consider this option, it’s there if I have to do it to protect my health and my family.

But what about the others? How can I just parachute myself away from them? Isn’t that another kind of privilege? Nope, can’t do it yet. I have to fight for them, for all of us because it could change all of our lives for the better. There’s enough mass in the numbers it could even change the trajectory of what our country prioritizes and create a different future that places family and health above everything else…to create work that compliments life, doesn’t compete with it the way it has until this point. I don’t know if I will succeed. I might not. We all might get screwed and BMOC and HQ keep being the only people seated at the table. It may take years for the damage of talented people flight catches up with them and they decide to give another inch but I’d love it if they could just give the inch now and trust the beauty that will come from it. To claim revolutionary success. To be an innovator who challenges America to be better. Whoever claims I am a pessimist is a bonehead. I am actually borderline Pollyanna in my hopes for this kind of change. I have nothing but optimism, my thoughts and my voice. And more frequent migraines. But this is what I was actually born to do. This is my purpose.

I have real value and I can advocate for real people, the others. They are beautiful and crazy and artsy and off the grid and different colors, shapes and sizes. It’s their time. They are the ones with the talent and power to change the world in the best of ways. I’d love it if BMOC and HQ would join us. We would totally accept them as simply one more pattern on the quilt, whereas when we do it their way, it’s just kind of like a boring coloring book where it’s demanded we color within the lines at all times. I’m a much bigger fan of Jackson Pollock than I am a coloring book picture where everyone’s page looks exactly the same.

Wow. It’s been a long time since I have blogged and it’s not like I haven’t had anything to say. The pandemic has been a year of profound mental growth for me, perhaps the strongest year of my life. For some reason, it seemed like I didn’t have any topics to write about but it’s just that my eyesight was changing direction. I don’t have silly dating stories and frustrating male encroachment stories because I don’t go anywhere and quarantine keeps them from bothering me. Not much you can do with a bootie call so they have stopped calling. I guess that solidifies my level of worth in their lives. I don’t care. They have no worth in mine either.

Since being able to work from home, I haven’t had any depressive episodes. So nothing to write about there. I do still have anxiety attacks but nothing like when I was in the office.

I certainly had my share of political Facebook rants over the last year but upon seeing an online photo joke today of an empty golf course with no President on it, and how it saved the government $600,000, I realized there is a tiny little shred of peacefulness when Trump photos are dwindling off my feed. So my angst has quieted down.

I am by no means complacent. I believe this political period is just the Republican reset button so they can get their White Supremacy “right” next time. There is a lot of work ahead that we privileged whites MUST do in order to fight that kind of evil and ensure a just, fair and peaceful society for ALL of us (well, maybe not all of us….I’m ok with not advocating for the Proud Boys.). I continue challenging my inherent bias and educating myself all the time. With that, I think I should share some of that growth more publicly. Hopefully it will encourage others to join me on this imperfect but necessary path.

My first “Merry Christmas” of the 2020 holiday season came from a Black, homeless man on the corner of Dunkin Donuts, EF Winslow and the street leading all the ambulances to the hospital.

I had seen this man in this spot on an unseasonably, warm day before Thanksgiving. My knee jerk thought was to not make eye contact because that’s what you do when someone is begging for money on the corner. I learned that somewhere…not from my parents but somewhere. There’s the thought of “how did he squander his money to end up here?” The next thought is “he’s just going to use the money to buy booze or drugs.” desperately waiting for the light to turn green, I instinctively started to reach for my phone to pretend I was reading a text message. I also remembered the guy who used to sit in the road at the busy set of lights off route 6 in Nashua. He literally caused traffic jams because there wasn’t room to form the 2 lanes we were supposed to be able to in order to leave the Kohl’s plaza. I used to get so mad at him for that!

That was my first “processing.” Within seconds of that societal downloading, it occurred to me he wasn’t wearing a mask in the middle of a pandemic. You all know I am a germaphobe so, of course, that got my attention. My next thoughts were of empathy and concern. This guy is out here begging for money and exposing himself to coronavirus when he likely has no access to healthcare. It reminded me of all the articles I have read and the studies I pursued at Yale about vulnerable communities….that the Black community is not receiving equitable healthcare during this crisis and here is the perfect example of someone in that situation.

I immediately decided I wanted to give him some cash but, I never carry cash anymore. I don’t carry a purse because I am afraid it will get Covid germs and bring them into the house. I literally just throw my license, debit card and phone in my jeans pocket and go. All the years I picked on my sister for just carrying a wad of items like this and not having a wallet. I am now the same. I also wanted to give him a mask but I didn’t have any in the car other than the one I was wearing. The light turned green so I had to go.

While doing my errands I became quite troubled by my initial thoughts around how being homeless must have been something he did through bad choices or that we shouldn’t give homeless people money because they will spend it in alcohol….translation for “not responsibly.” Where did I learn these things? How long have I been such a snob? My parents didn’t teach me this. In fact, my dad over indexes for the “little guy” and making sure we give benefit of the doubt, don’t judge and give help where we can….never mind how the money gets spent. Just help a fella out. That’s what he does.

It wasn’t that long ago I was going through a mental health crisis with serious consequences as a result of what others would call my “bad choices.” But when I was going through it, these weren’t active choices. It was illness and the inability to monitor my behavior properly. When all was said and done, I had experienced severe financial hardship for awhile and was only 1 bad decision from putting myself on a path which could have led to homelessness and alcoholism. The only thing that likely prevented it was my white privilege and the resources I did have access to rebuild my life. Who on earth was I to judge him? And who says it’s his fault? Our government has a very long history of isolating the Black community on purpose, to invite crime even because incarcerations are profitable for the government and big business. Our country purposely designed a system to make Black people fail so we could profit off of them and ensure they would never threaten our “whiteness.” This guy on the corner likely had more to do with faults of me and “my people” than any misstep of his own.

Also, who cares what he spends the money on? He needs money and we all have it. I don’t get to give money away charitably “with conditions.” And what’s 1$ or $20 going to do for a lifestyle overhaul? Can’t buy a house with it. Can’t buy new clothes. Can’t go to the doctor. But, he was standing across from Dunkin Donuts so he could get a decent cup of coffee, even if he planned to mix in some nips. Whatever he needs for immediate comfort, that is not my place to say. When I was on “the outs” nothing anyone said to me made a difference. I still drank. Maybe the outcome wouldn’t have become so dark if the people around at that time weren’t doing the same thing as me. So who are any of us to judge?

I kept thinking I should throw a small amount of cash in the glove compartment in case I saw him again….maybe even some masks. But I forgot and went home. Even still, it didn’t stop me from thinking about him for several days after and why I had spent an entire lifetime shunning homeless people for “bad judgement.” How does society get away with implanting these beliefs in us at such a young age with very little effort at reinforcing it….maybe just some Hollywood movie stereotypes.? It’s frightening that it literally is instinct and you have to proactively know to talk yourself out of it. Most people are not like me and would never have gotten to the “challenge your beliefs” portion of this red light experience.

A few weeks later, back on the same route, I was headed to pick up my Thanksgiving takeout. Another weirdly warm day but was raining horribly. Not many people were out. I was one of only a few cars on the road. Wouldn’t you know, there he was again at that intersection? And here I was again not having any cash. So annoyed with myself. This time, though, I stopped at an ATM and grabbed a $20 so I could give it to him on my way back home. As I approached the intersection, the 20$ bill in my gloved hand, mask on and ready to roll the window down, I didn’t see him. I kept going towards home but just before turning into my street, I decided to try and loop back. Maybe he had just popped into Dunkins to get out of the rain. So, back I went. He still wasn’t there.

I wound up going home with my turkey dinner takeout, got all snuggled up on the couch with my pets and thanked God for the roof over my head. While so many people were feeling sorry for themselves not being able to partake in their usual festivities (and despite the assholes who changed nothing and exposed everyone to disease) I was just content to be dry, to have a meal, to own my own home and have video access to my family. That’s a pretty magical Thanksgiving in comparison to being homeless, out in the rain.

Those who know me, I am eventually like a dog with a bone. Once I get something in my head, there is no stopping me. Save your energy because it’s going to happen. I am going to think about it day and night until I accomplish it. Therefore, despite my fear of having my car broken into (because I have actually experienced it twice) I decided to leave the $20 in my glove compartment. I knew I’d travel that road again..,it’s pretty much the only road to Hyannis where the UPS store is and I shop enough I have to return things from time to time. I wanted to be prepared in case I ever saw him again.

One day in December…another oddly warm day for the time of year, I could see him ahead so I quickly moved into the left lane to align my window with where he was standing. My timing was perfect. I was the first car there ahead of the red light. I put my mask up, had already put my glove on while driving as I approached him, and rolled the window down, handed him the $20. He smiled broadly and said “Merry Christmas” to which I replied the same. The light turned green and I drove off.

I was diagnosed with major recurrent depressive disorder when I was in my early 20s. But I’d had it since I was a kid. Looking back on it and knowing now what I know about inter generational trauma and the altering of parental brain chemistry during war which changes the DNA , probably means I was born with it.

I was diagnosed with ADD in my early 30s but had it all through school.

I was diagnosed with an eating disorder when I was 35. It started around age 10 or 11.

I was officially diagnosed with PTSD and Anxiety at age 39.

Growing up, I was taught to hide my therapy and to stifle what made me different from other people. In high school I began dabbling with active non conformity and attempting to assert my true personality which came out in creative writing classes and musical taste. I always had a healthy questioning of authority and the ability to challenge what didn’t feel right to me even if an adult insisted I do it and everyone else was doing it. “Everyone else had never been a motivating reason for me.

When I got to the working world and had skin in the game to pay rent and bills, I immediate stuffed that girl in a bag and shoved her into the back of the closet. I realized very quickly that people who say what they mean are ostracized and punished. They get nicknames and whispers. They never advance like the “yes” people do. When it came to financial independence, I became a trailblazing coward.

I had a mental illness. I knew I was lucky to get myself out of bed, into a shower and to work most days. I overdelivered by being extremely reliable and never calling out sick from work, even when I was hungover or didn’t sleep the night before. I once stopped at a gas station, stuck my fingers down my throat to get the booze out, ate half a tin of altoids and washed stripper debris from my skin and clothes and went to work at 6 am having only stopped at Denny’s at 3 am after the strip club. No one knew. I can keep some pretty deep secrets when I need to.

When I started working, you NEVER disclosed mental illness. To this day, job application or disclosure form has “no” marked for the disability question. For the first 10 or 15 years of my career, I didn’t know mental illness was a disability so I thought I was being honest. But I have filled out many a job application over the past 10 years intentionally marking that box as no figuring I had no chance of being hired if I said yes. So, on paper, I am not considered a “diverse” candidate during a time in which companies want to change the stigma and actively hire people with differences to prove their open mindedness and innovation.

While I have been publicly open about my mental health struggles for the past few years, I still have not truly disclosed at work other than a handful of people during 1:1 conversations. It’s not that I am ashamed of it now. It’s that I don’t want to be accused of sharing it for attention or as a way to make excuses for unusual or undesirable behavior. I don’t want to “steal the spotlight” from more important needs such as racial equity. I’d rather just be completely misunderstood , ridiculed and characterized as a crazy woman than to be thought of as a victim, a one upper, a scene stealer or someone who doesn’t want to take accountability for her actions. The things I am typically accused of are actually so far from who I am it’s almost comical to think how little anyone really knows of me and then that fact just gets kind of sad.

I have no problem defending others and helping others but I do not reserve those things for myself. I am no role model or hero. When I was sexually assaulted at age 21, I was perfectly good with telling no one for the rest of my life and trying to forget it ever happened. I valued my safety, my privacy and personal comfort over any other factors. But, he struck again a few months later to a woman I had just recently met and have become lifelong friends with. You see, my silence resulted in the torture of another person and I will go to my grave regretting that… that my inaction caused another pain. And what’s worse, I knew just how bad that pain was because I was marinating in it myself.

Once I found out about another victim, I did press charges. I couldn’t continue to let it happen without a fight. That’s how much I care for others above myself.

At times, the legal process can be more humiliating than the assault. Having to relive it, tell your story primarily to men repeatedly and to be constantly second guessed when you are still just trying to find your footing and some way forward without wanting die is a special kind of hell you can never understand if it hasn’t directly happened to you.

When in court, it came out that I was seeing a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an official diagnosis at that time, just a bunch of appointment recaps from the doctor I had just started seeing. Not sure if an official diagnosis would have given me more or less credibility. I like to think it would have but this was 25 years ago when we still weren’t really supposed to talk about our therapy and any kind of diagnosis meant you were “crazy.” It was awful being slandered and mischaracterized as “nuts” because there was actual evidence I was being treated for mental problems. Therefore, I had to be making this story up for attention and could not be credible. Despite that, I won. Even though the evolution on mental illness has moved like molasses, I think there were enough jury members who just felt that was mean to do to a 21 year old in front of her father. But the embarrassment of being talked about like a crazy person was very damaging and shameful. In retrospect, going to therapy actually made me more self aware, clearer, more resolute than everyone around me. I just wasn’t as sure of that at the time as I am now.

That experience taught one thing for sure…absolutely never disclose the mental issues at work. Let people fill in their own blanks in their need to create a narrative of me. Get made fun of, get gossiped about, get cheated on, get left out…all of it perfectly more acceptable than just explaining there is a valid, medical reason for some of the things I think and do. No pity, no excuses. Let people think what they want. They will never truly know enough about you to be right in their negative assessment. Let that be good enough.

Fast forward a couple decades and millennials and Gen Z use the word anxiety as often as they check Instagram. It means everything from “ I chipped a nail to I am going to slit my wrists.” This is actually not criticism. While I think many of them overstate their issues and self diagnose a problem a doctor has ynever diagnosed just because the read some symptoms in college psych ( by the way, we all did that and for about an afternoon would consider ourselves bipolar or BPD and then realize if we truly had those things, we would have known it before psych class so we move on.). These newer generations love WebMD is all I’m saying. The fact is, whatever they are sharing is still sharing and it’s done without shame, self consciousness or embarrassment. I find that courageous and a behavior I want to learn. My militant “suck it up” approach isn’t actually the right one. I was protecting myself but I wasn’t creating a safe space to encourage others to come forward and share their mental health challenges.

Hadn’t I learned that self preservation is short sited and only protects me but can negatively impact people in the future I haven’t even met yet? Apparently not. I’m 18 years into my company not talking about my disability. Instead, I have suffered terrible years of gossip, slander, false narratives, unfair branding, lack of promotional opportunities and downright discrimination. All of which are my fault. I allowed myself to be judged incorrectly and it doesn’t suit who I am now at all. I am confident, self assured and incredibly proud of all my mental illnesses and the skills I have had to develop to work around them. I know no employee more adaptive or resilient as me. I don’t need coaching. I am already coaching myself the minute words start coming out of my mouth. I can’t tell you how many times Ive emailed bullet point “lessons I learned from that” to my boss when she doesn’t even think I did anything wrong. If you figure me out and what motivates me, I am the easiest person on earth to Manage.

The problem I discovered today is that what if I do stop hiding this stuff? When I do something “off” or behave abruptly, what’s the harm in apologizing, explain it’s not personal and they simply just witnessed a trigger of your disease? You’ll find your allies and identify your blockers, both of whom you need to be aware of. Plus, other people relate and feel more comfortable talking about their experiences which ultimately helps them and that’s who I am.

The issue is, I’ve worked With these people a very long time. Their narrative of me is from 2010 or embedded in an old gossip story…no interpretation of which could be accurate but was put forth and poisoned the well with great effort.

Someone said about mental health disability today that when someone shares their illness with you, “acknowledge it and then look past it for their portfolio of actual abilities.” You aren’t supposed to assume them unreliable, apathetic or sad all the time and then write them off at work. This made so much sense to me because all the things I thought to be diseased imperfections in myself have now created super powers I wouldn’t have ever had. I hate my “episodes” and need my tribe to be paying close attention to my patterns of speech and writing to know to reach out and help me take the needle of the record for a second so I can get help. But I don’t regret who I have become and what my capabilities are in spite of my obstacles. I have gone from hiding my illnesses and deep shame to a point where I can hold myself in higher esteem than some of my peers because I know I am made of more than they are. The wind can’t blow my tree down anymore. I just don’t understand how to change the way coworkers see me. Will I always be “bad” or can we write a new chapter and see what I can actually do? How on earth do I figure out how to do this? I’m not afraid to disclose now. I’m just afraid it will simply be one more thing used to conveniently misunderstand me.

I hate my tiny, little white bathroom tiles and forever dirty grout because it’s an impossible task to keep the grout clean. I’ve been down scrubbing with a toothbrush, swiffer jet and vacuum, hired a cleaner, got grout bleach, used a grout pen. Nothing works. I have always been ashamed that the floor makes me seem like a dirty person when I’m really not. Cluttered, yes. Dirty, not so much.

I moved in here about 10 and a half years ago. It’s an older townhouse but I liked the character of it. The arched entryway to the kitchen, the wooden ceiling beams, the brick wall, the large bedrooms and vast closet space. But the big projects I planned when I got here were to demo the upstairs bathroom, replace all the carpeting, replace the fridge and dishwasher. A decade later and these things have not happened.

Since the pandemic and working from home these past 3 months, I have been able to chip away at daily projects which make me feel a lot better and in control. When I worked in the office and was commuting to the Cape every weekend, I didn’t have it in me to clean the closets, the pantry or organize the basement. Even simple paint touch ups were beyond my emotional and physical capacity. I had a hard time keeping up with housework and often felt I overwhelmed by all the “lists” I needed to get through.

I have also wanted to move for several years but couldn’t get motivated because of all these looming tasks and because I still hadn’t renovated the bathroom or replaced the carpets. Now that I have done so much of that work, I am serious and aggressive about moving. I am even half packed so that when the time comes to move, I only need to pack the closets and cabinets. I definitely have a renewed sense of energy about moving.

That said, I have been shaming myself about that dreadful bathroom tile and the pee stains in my carpet from a dog who takes steroids which causes him to have to pee a lot. I had a leaky kitchen sink faucet, a broken toilet handle and a 30 year old water heater. All my other neighbors who have placed homes on the market have all upgraded and modernized. While I know I have made a profit since buying the house, I’m still at a $80,000-$50,000 value deficit from the other units in my neighborhood. I can get enough to buy something but I certainly could have a lot more to buy something turnkey and that I would love immediately had I been able to make similar upgrades.

I had no idea how prepping to sell a home could be like being single and dating. I like my place well enough but anyone who comes in to view it is going to ask, what’s that ceiling stain, why is the kitchen nozzle a slightly different color from the sink, why are the bathroom tiles so gross, when is the hot water heater going to blow out, what’s that smell in the living room? All things which can be explained or fixed but when you are dating, you don’t want a fixer upper. It’s like being never married with no kids at age 45 and every dating prospect asks ” what’s wrong with you, why are you still single?” I mean, I’m good with it but for someone looking to invest, just seems like a lot of red flags and extra little projects to get through before wanting to be seen with me in public.

A few weeks ago, I was telling my therapist about my insecurities about my house and how disappointed I am that I never could afford these upgrades. He said he wished my company would pay me enough and what I deserved. I realized I never told him just how well they actually do pay me. He thinks I’m underpaid. Quite the contrary. The problem is I am a single person household so all the expenses are covered by me at %100. That means there is very little leftover for anything else, especially the ability to build a solid savings account. If I had a spouse and 2 incomes, I could pass for upper middle class and live in a town and neighborhood similar to where I grew up. I’d have been able to figure out how to replace a bathroom and carpet in a ten year period, probably even twice if I so desired.

My realtor is a super nice guy and friend of the family whom I trust. He did some research on the neighborhood and property and gave me a healthy estimate in what I could expect in sales which lined up well with my expectations. I had already resigned myself to the fact I wasn’t going to get another $50,000 on top. I get the place is outdated. But when he got here and looked around, he told me I had to pack up every personal item I have, consider replacing the water heater and the carpets. I might be able to do one but not both. He said he thinks he could still get me to that original estimate he gave but at that moment said he’d be lucky to sell it for $30,000 less.

He apologized for being honest but I wasn’t hurt at all. I actually take feedback quite well because I already had a good sense of the problems here. I was very open to hearing the truth so I could make adjustments and figure out what I needed to zero in on. Not a problem. Next day, I got to work and started packing. He had warned me he was going to be really busy with a family issue for a week or two. Even still, when I wasn’t hearing from him and he was failing to follow up with the MLS website so I could house hunt, I was feeling kind of like a rejected girlfriend. He was judging my value based on that of my sister whom he has known for 20 years. Then he met me and was disappointed because I definitely fall short of her. That’s how I interpreted it.

She has a small house her family has outgrown. I probably have 3 times the square footage she has. But she lives in a highly desirable town with a home 3 times the value of mine. She and my sister in law don’t make gobs of money but they do have 2 incomes. They have been able to renovate their kitchen beautifully and pay to have 2 kids. If they were to put that place on the market, no one would quibble over an outdated bathroom. They’d just be psyched to get into that location. So yes, as a real estate prospect, I’m trying to sell a Trump town with people who don’t wear masks or social distance on top of the ugliest bathroom tiles on earth.

I decided to follow up with him to check on the status of things and got no response for 2 days. When you are dating, that’s very bad. You usually don’t need to be the one to follow up and even if you must, you should get an immediate response. To have heard nothing in 2 days when your whole livelihood depends on getting things moving feels like you are being ghosted. I even did that “ask a friend” thing where I told my sister I hadn’t heard from him so should I follow up again or wait it out. She told me to follow up so I did. Turns out he had just been busy with that family thing and told me the wrong week. I’m such a dork.

I’m not normally insecure. I don’t even care anymore about having a relationship. Part of this move is my acceptance of that because I plan to move to a location where single, decent men are even more scarce than they are now. I’ve kind of tried to keep myself in the area and kept my house hunting within a 20 minute radius of Boston to keep the husband potential open. Since the pandemic and realizing I am a thousand times happier than my friends at the moment, why not just skip the husband years and go straight to the retirement location while able to work full time with most of it from home and eliminate the commute? So that’s the plan.

But it really has stirred up all these feelings of low self worth when I have to acknowledge the only things I wanted to do to improve my home have never been done. I even had a new bathroom vanity selected before I signed the papers on the house but still never got there. I feel like an absolute failure for never being able to afford such basic things. It’s really had me feeling a sense of shame and embarrassment. I almost want to stand here during a showing and explain myself while apologizing for all the quirks new owners have to decide if they want to take on or just buy the unit 3 doors down for a little more money and have no projects at all. I want to challenge them and ask them how well they would have been able to do on a single income. At least I’m still paying the mortgage and the bills. The couple who sold to me were even failing at that and had to move in with the wife’s mother and have since divorced. I should be viewing myself as a smashing success. But when you are dating, no guy is comparing your mild success to the failures of an even sadder prospect. He’s comparing you against what he thinks he deserves and how he should be able to do better.

Today, I actually had a professional cleaner come in and clean the bathroom tiles. It’s a bigger improvement than I hoped for. The plumber came in and fixed all the leaky, broken things today and told me the water heater I have is better than any new one I could install and even a new one could conk out before this one might. He wasn’t sure it was worth the money considering it would actually be a performance downgrade. He also told me this place will sell fast because it’s a super desirable location. I started to feel really optimistic about selling.

But there is another battle. Buying a new home in a very competitive market. Places are selling after being on the market less than a day. That means people have the means to come in at or above offer with no contingency on selling the place they have. If we are all competing for the best looking guy, I’m coming in with a contingency and would be lucky to offer full price. I know I will be expected to negotiate on the sale of my place but I don’t get to do that to my seller in return. Again, what do I have to offer against my competition? I come with a contingency and who wants a girl with baggage when 20 others are lined up baggage free, raining out dollar bills like a bad strip joint. It’s like I’m the “fat stripper.”

Growing up with depression, I had very little expectation for my future. I didn’t really have a future planned. I dropped out of college and was aimless. I thought I would get married but after the boyfriend I loved and lost in my early 20s, I realized that just wasn’t going to come easy for me. I was overweight, depressed, Unmedicated and occasionally “crazy” when pushed to the edge or gaslit. I didn’t have high career aspirations. I just expected to have a job to the pay the bills and to be happy with that because when you suffer from major recurrent depression, that’s about as big of an accomplishment as you can carry. When I got promoted to management I remember telling my parents to be happy with that and not to expect much more from me – that I had reached my pinnacle because depressed people just don’t have the energy for much else. Even when I became a manager, I spent my entire weekends in bed sleeping to recover from the over exertion of the work week.

I don’t recall the exact moment I started to change but somewhere around 35ish my depression became more manageable, better medicated. It was the first time in my life I started to dream up goals and a plan for the future. I guess I had started to think I might be around for a little longer than I believed growing up. Maybe I surpassed an age I didn’t really believe I was going to see. Suddenly it became really important for me to finish my degree, lose weight and stave off major medical problems which come from obesity. I started traveling. I started to care about career advancement. And, even though I survived the Boston Marathon bombing which added anxiety, Binge drinking, PTSD and now suicidal depression bottoms, I still had the stamina and hope to pull through and continue having a future.

Unfortunately, at 45, I am finding myself having the yens and desires of a 30 year old when it comes to career and home. Yet I am 15 years delayed and now competing with the types of people I should have been when it counted. To others, it can absolutely look like I am a failure in both career and home because both are stalled. The career is extra stalled because of my age and the home situation is extra stalled because of my single income. Or, you could look at the adversity of my life and fact I didn’t expect to be alive at this point and cheer me on the sidelines for at least getting started on living and planning a decent future. If you’re the kind of guy looking for a strong woman who can survive more than a bad manicure and is actually really interesting to talk to and travel with, I’m a hidden gem you would never expect to find in such a humble location. But most men are looking for a more submissive, trophy type who looks just as nice as the $600,000 house with granite countertops, a spa tub, stainless steel appliances, and minimal effort.


I am starting to settle into a new routine for my job, working remotely. Mostly, it’s just a lot of standing by for emails and skypes so I can answer questions I have never answered before and ensure my associates are getting all the updates they need. It’s a little weird not seeing their faces every day.

That said, I am an introvert so part of this experience feels like a dream for me. I have gotten 4 hours of my day back that I never really understood as missing. I spend about 2 hours prepping and getting to work, then about 2 hours late at work and getting home. I actually feel calm…genuine calm. I have never felt this before. I am sleeping about 90 minutes later in the morning and there isn’t really anything I need to do post 5 even though I don’t find staying logged in to be terribly intrusive. That’s now “me” time. More than once I have asked myself ” is it time to write a book already ?”

My hair is in great shape because I take breaks from washing it and it hasn’t seen a curling iron or straightener in about a week. I let it air dry every day too. Plus, no styling products beyond my detangler. It only gets this great in the summer when I frequently air dry and go natural. I honestly love my summer hair….curly and hippie. No makeup which is good for my skin, not that I use a lot, but any break is a good one. Although, tomorrow I have a few video meetings so I may spruce myself up a little better. I am also discovering just how many pairs of jeans don’t fit…like they are so big they need to go into the donation pile. I thought I would eat more being at home but I actually eat less. I haven’t been eating fistfuls of candy or vending machine snacks every day. And that nagging headache I had for the past 3 days was most likely caffeine withdrawal because I’m not buying Coke Zero every afternoon. Not gonna lie…wondered if it was just mild Coronavirus.

I have done 2 loads of laundry, including all my bedding. I even cleaned a toilet. Things I never have the energy for when I get home at night and I sleep a big chunk of the weekend to recover from frantic work weeks. Today, I baked chocolate chip cookies while working and they are the best I have ever made. They even look pretty. I tend to spend a little more time looking for recipes because I now have the patience and time to cook. No one has time for a chicken pot pie when they get home from work at 7:30 and go to bed at 9.

The pet experience is major. Fergus hasn’t had one accident in the house since I have been home. He follows me everywhere which is no different than any other day but there is something soothing about a snoring pug on my lap while I respond to emails. I even find myself more jovial in conversations with my associates. Today, in between their calls, we deconstructed the Jax and Brittany wedding episode from VanDerPump Rules last night. Henry comes and goes. Yesterday, I found him up snuggled up in the t-shirt I left on the bed. Today, I went up and he basically screamed for me to pet him before leaving the room. My biggest concern with the boys is me contracting this virus and passing it onto them. Also, Fergus’ next shot is supposed to be at the vet because I really struggle to do it on my own but I think I am going to have to just learn a better way to do it.

I am starting to think about ways to add online yoga and meditation classes to my days and also have the goal of knocking off one household chore a day. I had that goal when I moved in 10 years ago and it’s never consistently occurred. Now that I have to have the housekeeper take a break for at least this month, I don’t want to be overwhelmed. (I wish I could still lay here because she needs that income but it had to go to groceries instead.)

I got my hair colored last week so I am good for another 5 weeks before having to re-think that but I didn’t get caught up on my pedicure in time and now regret not having prioritized that better. I can do it myself, a luxury I didn’t have when I was 80 pounds heavier. For real, I started needing help putting on shoes with straps and got winded trying to reach my toes. Now it’s just vanity in that it feels good to have a pedicure and I think a foot massage is somewhat necessary for health. Oh yeah, had to cancel my monthly massage….something everyone thinks of as an extravagance but is actually for my health and a prescribed part of my PTSD management. But maybe with people not popping up behind me or following me to my desk unexpectedly all day, my PTSD might become more manageable.

My therapy will now switch to video conference which is fine. Part of me doesn’t even feel like I need it because my life pace just completely dropped and the workplace politics are non existent when we are all on equal video playing field. Everyone is just working together and getting along without feeling forced to compete against each other. We each have our strengths and are able to let them play out for the greater good. I even got a text message the other night from an ex-friend/co-worker asking me if she needed her husband to drop off groceries from time to time. Talk about the melting of the biggest iceberg, like Greenland big. I was so touched and emotional from that conversation I can’t really even talk about it.

I am seeing all the articles about the potential anxiety and depression which can come from being alone. So I will keep the appointment to stay on track. Especially as I have begun having thoughts that go outside this puffy, dreamy, comfy little cloud of existence I am currently living in. It was just last week I had to sedate myself 4 different times.

While I am enjoying this now and am rendering a million benefits, I do get scared this is going to get worse. What is an introvert’s greatest fantasy could very quickly turn dark. It’s already hard to get food and supplies safely. My grocery bill is three times what it normally is each week. And yes, I have a job and am getting paid through all of this but I work for the stock market, I am not dumb enough to think I won’t get laid off at some point during or after this. I am becoming moderately worried about that possibility. With the bills I have, I don’t have enough “extra” to build meaningful savings. And, the one major account I do have is only accessible through my father unless we call the bank together and release that arrangement and provide me with access. When do you have the ” in case you die” during Coronavirus conversation to start transferring accounts? I have thought about it before every surgery and each cancer diagnosis but think it against the spirit in which he adheres which is always to assume business as usual. He doesn’t marinate in worst case scenarios and emergency planning. Hence, why he was still trying to buy bird food yesterday when everyone is quarantining themselves. My sister and I have barely slept in a week worrying about his inability to take this seriously because he’s such an optimist. Apparently the bird food trip got him thinking. Not the state of emergency, the stockpiling of prescriptions, the senior hours at Stop and Shop, not the endless descriptions of the vulnerable community and the lectures to millennials to stay away from them, not the closing of the golf course, not that all his kids were sent to work from home, not that school was canceled for his grandchildren…the bird food trip. See why I need sedatives? This guy has had cancer 4 times and pneumonia with sepsis. He is the very channel 5 description of who should not be out trying to buy bird food.

I am worrying about food scarcity. I am worrying about looting behaviors and the very real possibility it could come to the point of people breaking into my home for food or prescriptions. I have the same worry for my parents and my sister’s family. Probably my brother too….he’s a ” guy”and all but he’s more of the gentler type. His only “weapon” is a golf club. He won the “sportsmanship” award in hockey which basically translated to “you don’t really score any goals, you aren’t the fastest skater but you don’t seem to hit anyone so you are a nice kid” award. That’s kind of an accurate description of his general demeanor.

Obviously, I am worried about getting the illness and now my fear is that I could wind up in an army tent ER or cruise ship set up for medical treatment with any nurse-like TLC being in the arms of the national guard. If I die, I’m just buried in a mass grave in a protective body bag, not with ceremony or with family. I am worried this is going to change our economy drastically and that the way I live will no longer be something I can afford. I worry I could eventually lose my home. I know people will read this and think I am overreacting. Let me tell you something. I didn’t think this illness would get this far in the US. And I worry a lot. I am a little smarter than the average bloke about this shit. I study it. I truly believed we would contain it as we have all the others. I never foresaw this scenario and I typically foresee with a high degree of confidence. I never believed this could happen. Therefore, every time I try to self soothe and tell myself these other scenarios won’t happen, I have a lingering feeling I am being naive….that we are all being naive. Should I have bought more toilet paper when I had the chance? Lysol wipes have been on the grocery list for awhile and I just kept forgetting and telling myself I still had plenty of time. Now I don’t and I look at the half empty canister every day wondering how far I can get each sheet to go. There is an amazon package sitting on my living room chair right now, like a ticking time bomb, because I can’t decide if I should use a sheet to wipe it down knowing there are more shipments coming in addition to groceries on Friday.

Despite the prescription carrier having no problem doing state of emergency overrides for all my prescriptions, there is still one the pharmacy isn’t letting through because it’s a controlled substance and they want the doctor to agree. He already agreed by writing the prescription. He doesn’t care if I get it every 30 days or get 3 months worth right now, just as long as I never miss a dose. I think he’s probably a little busy right now to worry about this dumb red tape. So I have been battling that all week too. I am on 3 different medications which have extreme health impacts if I don’t take them so I don’t want to end up in a hospital for those things. The medical community is kind of pre-occupied and everything they are near is infected. I think they can all get behind preventative measures. So Walgreens needs to figure their shit out because Caremark set it all up for them.

Yeah, I definitely need to keep my therapy appointments.

Driving home I finished a podcast episode where the guest was talking about her dating life and experiences with online dating. She shared that by age 29 she had never had a serious relationship. Then, by age 34, her longest relationships only lasted about 6 months. Because so many of her friends and her siblings were all married or in long term relationships she felt there must be something wrong with her; that she had to be the common thread. Plus, society has conditioned us to believe something is wrong with us if we haven’t had multiple long term relationships even if they have all failed.

She shared that when she goes on dates, she never asks the men about their dating histories because she is terrified they will ask about hers and she will have to reveal she hasn’t had long term relationships as though all her actual “experiences” don’t count. She talked about one date where the question did come up and when she answered, his response was “Oh my God, what is wrong with you? That really concerns me.” She left that date broken and cried in her car.

She decided to seek therapy. She also chose a male therapist. She had very strong female relationships in her life and figured they either wouldn’t tell her the real truth about what was wrong with her or they would go to the extreme and tell her she was too picky. She thought a male therapist could give her an honest, unbiased perspective from the challenging gender. He could tell her if it was that she wasn’t pretty enough or wasn’t sexy or being too picky.

He confirmed it was none of those things and that she had high standards which was ok. When he heard her “list” he felt the expectations were reasonable and not so out of whack no one could meet enough of them-only that not settling does make it harder to meet people with long term potential. He didn’t feel she had any demands that were inflexible or compromises she couldn’t make if the most important boxes were checked. In fact, her experience is actually becoming more and more common amongst millennials and generation Z. It’s just harder these days to make that connection.

I too have a male therapist. He was one of few who specialize in PTSD treatment which is what prompted me to begin seeing him. But we cover everything from childhood traumas all the way up to work issues and dating. I have asked him many times what is wrong with me. He says there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. I got a later start because of unresolved issues from childhood and my early 20s. But my experiences are valid and my list of needs is healthy. It’s just harder for people like me who don’t settle. That a lot of people enter marriages, co-habitation and child rearing knowing something is more deficient than it should be and hope that taking the “leap” will solve it or at least water it down. In essence, he feels I am actually happier and healthier than they are and that it’s not a good comparison. We are coming from completely different evolutions and I just managed to get to a higher plane. They could have too under different circumstances. But these are my circumstances and I need to accept them and understand they are the total opposite of failure.

I have only had 3 serious relationships and I was done with them by around age 25. The first one was incredibly loving and healthy. We just grew apart with our age difference and life goals. The other 2 were very unhealthy and riddled with dishonesty, insecurity and violence in one. I went into them a broken person with lots of unresolved issues I had been carrying since childhood. I was really fat and took what behavior I got, especially with the third one because he was good looking, had the attention of other women and for some reason chose me so I didn’t ever push back on things which didn’t feel right to me. The second one resulted in restraining orders and court. Anything after that was an upgrade.

I was so fractured and completely dissembled by experience number 3, I just couldn’t get involved with anyone for a very long time. I didn’t trust guys who told friends they were interested in me because I was fat, there was no valid reason for them to be interested and I usually convinced myself it was some kind of prank or bet they made with friends. I underwent years of therapy to break apart all the obstacles which kept me from being able to trust and while I have made a world of progress, it was always be a lingering problem.

I too don’t ask about previous relationships when dating because I don’t want to answer that question and have to field that look of fear on their faces. Like I can’t be capable of having healthy long term relationship because I don’t have a lengthy history of failed ones. Think about that for a minute. Does that really make sense? I won’t be able to navigate sharing a bathroom and household responsibilities in a good relationship because I have never done it in a bad one? I can’t navigate emotional conversations, disagreements, boundaries because I haven’t had failed ones? What about the plethora of highly successful adult friendships and decades of leadership experience over other adults that are hugely fulfilling and successful? My work experience alone better qualifies me for marriage than any previous male companion.

In fact, I have had a lot of experiences the long terms have not. I have had friends with benefits, the long goodbye sex, one night stands, Vegas stands, revenge sex, rebound dates, short term boyfriends, cheating boyfriends, sexual assault, work trysts, an affair, married men flirtations and very close male friends going on 2 decades. I don’t believe these are inconsequential. In terms of bathrooms and chores…we get a house with 2 bathrooms, we hire a house cleaner, we order meal kits, we hire a CPA/financial advisor, keep separate bank accounts and both get comfortable picking up dog poop. What is it I am not qualified to do here just because I haven’t failed it before?

My problem is I am Gen X and we believe everyone is supposed to be coupled up, yet prepared for divorce or spousal unemployment. We have been taught to be able to provide for ourselves in the event one loses a job or “she” ends up divorced with the kids. But we are expected to at least have one marriage under the belt or we are not valid. There is something wrong with us. I would challenge that I think it’s quite an accomplishment for me, or anyone, to be able to provide solely for myself with no midnight confidant and having spared child dependents from the financial and opportunity dearth which can come from a single parent home.

Because I got a later start, my dating experience is more aligned with the millennials. I have to know what ghosting, cuffing season, polyamory and sapiosexual mean. I can never assume the guy I am seeing and sleeping with isn’t doing the same with someone else and I can’t even be just a little bit bothered by it when I find out because it’s what “everyone else is doing.” I know the nuances which set Tinder apart from Match, OkCupid from Bumble, Hinge from Happn.” I am watching the disintegration of marriage and monogamy based on the married men, open relationship, poly, non-monogamy approaches I get. Basically, gals, “he’s just not that into you” but he likes your house, double income, child care, car choices too much to free you up for something better.

I began my millennial dating around age 36 when I lost weight and became an average , size 10 fat girl. I was conveniently aged around the failing first marriages and less fat than the ex wife who bore the kids. I was confident because I hadn’t spent decades being beaten down in sad relationships. I still liked sex. Novelties for the age 40 male and over. So I have had lots and lots of experiences. I have traveled. I have been educated. I have a lot of well informed opinions on the world in general. I read a lot. I have a lot to talk about on dates without ever having to “mention my ex.” And, unlike millennials, I have my shit together, am financially solvent, don’t live with my parents and can drive in the snow. Also, my college debt is long paid off. I can go on yearly vacations and save for retirement. I have no college tuitions to prepare for and don’t have to buy new shoes every six months because the munchkin keeps growing out of them. I can just buy shoes for myself every six months because I like them and they go well with an outfit. I don’t have children, nor do I want them. No pressure. I’m fine if he has them already. It’s just not something he ever has to worry he will hear ticking in the background of a nice dinner. About the only ” clock” I have is do I have to buy a plus one concert ticket for him six months out? Because the shows I go to are cheap, I never have to tell if I did or not. He only has to know if we get about a week out from it.

I find it comforting to hear another woman talking about her experiences just as I do. It doesn’t matter she is a decade younger. She expected to be married with kids by now and it hasn’t happened so she is now accepting she is just on a different path. Plus, she froze her eggs which is an option now. That allows her to let out a big sigh and enjoy a steak dinner on her dates without fear of male reproach that she is “stifling” him simply by stating she would like to have kids someday. And why is he so arrogant as to assume she means she wants to have his kids. Do we think so little of women as to assume they have no discernment or taste of their own in the plan and design of their offspring. It’s her general goal for sometime in the future just as it is for most men. She doesn’t mean you right now, today. Settle down on the ego and jumpy sperm. If you are single and she is single, you aren’t a bigger prize than she is.

Women, you don’t need therapy to find out what’s wrong with you because you haven’t yet had a chance to kick someone out, contemplate divorce, have to hide his cheating, tolerate his sloth or hide your shopping bags. Male or female therapist. Have a therapist because it’s good for emotional health just the way you see your PCP for physical health. It’s great to have one when you are navigating a new relationship because he/she can help you through your silent freak outs and “is this normal” questioning. But by no means are you less of a person, less capable of a good relationship and invalidated in any way simply because a man hasn’t let you down in a way that causes you financial harm or home displacement. Those are tragedies. They are not skill builders.