Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Make a little birdhouse in your soul

I've been a musician literally almost my entire life. I took piano lessons in elementary school. Since sixth grade, I've played clarinet. In high school, I picked up alto saxophone. At one point in my teens, I played three different instruments in three different bands. I've dabbled with trumpet, bassoon, accordion, and bass guitar. I'm currently teaching myself ukulele, with enough success that I've written one song.

Even before I could speak, my mom tells me slow songs and beautiful melodies would make me cry ("Silent Night" usually was the go-to for waterworks). There's never been a time when a moving melodic line or intricate chord progression didn't send chills up and down my spine, even if I'd heard the song 1,000 times. This song, for example, does it every time without fail:

Birdhouse In Your Soul - They Might Be Giants
1990 - Elektra Records

The first time I heard "Birdhouse In Your Soul" live, I cried. The second and third time I heard it live, I also cried. Call it cheesy, but it was a spiritual experience each time. I listened to it nonstop when my dad passed away. I have a huge, custom tattoo stretching across my chest dedicated to this song. It was the recessional at my wedding. It will undoubtedly be played at my funeral (hopefully a long time from now!).

Music has always moved me in a way nothing else can. Writing has always helped me harness the passion and creativity that music stirs up in me, and my junior/senior year English teacher always hoped I'd pursue writing as a career (and looking back, she was right, and I wish I'd pursued it). (I considered majoring in clarinet performance and band education, but felt I didn't have the chops, patience, or memorization skills for it.)

However, I have a lot of trouble writing music and lyrics. I think my hangup is that I hold myself to a much higher standard than is attainable for someone who plucks away at a $20 ukulele in her free time. My husband has encouraged me to write more music (the first song I ever wrote was written for him, and I almost couldn't finish playing it because his tears brought on my own). I'd love to be playing coffee shops and bars with other musicians.

I can't kick the feeling of not being good enough, though. I feel like every line of lyrics or chord progression I write is boring, played-out, and too similar to other people's work. I live in constant fear of performing with a horribly out of tune instrument that causes patrons to cringe, or forgetting the words or chord progressions to my own songs on stage mid-performance (or looking like an idiot for having a notebook in front of me as I perform). I worry that my voice -while I enjoy it quite a bit- is too weak or mediocre to be bearable, being a husky contralto the likes of Lorde, though with slightly less upper range and strength.

I willingly let myself go into these darker recesses of my mind, allowing myself to dredge up my feelings of anxiety, depression, inferiority, and inadequacy in hopes of something sparking inspiration, and all I can come up with is boring, broody, trite material that sounds like the stoned ramblings of a teenage goth kid who hates gym class and his parents because they make him wear polo shirts when they visit grandma and won't sign off for him to get that psick tatt of a crying demon on his forearm ("this house is a prison!"). It makes me question so much about my own feelings and hangups and anxieties and even my ability to express myself. The last person who complimented my writing style perpetually pisses on my leg and insists that it's raining, so I have trouble NOT taking it with a grain of salt. The only other people who I let even come close to reading what I have to write are my mother and my husband, and while I value their input, it feels almost necessary for them to go easy on me. The closest I come to putting my writing out there is this blog, which is just stream of consciousness ramblings for my own sake for the most part (a semi-anonymous public journal more or less) and not proofread or even written in a way that's intended to be thought-provoking or interesting. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014


This morning, what started as a talking-to from my boss quickly dissolved into me sobbing horribly in front of her. She was unhappy with my productivity (or lack thereof) over the past day or two (and miscellaneous unnamed previous occasions). I've had discussions with management in the past that have lead me to tears, but in the past I've kept it together until leaving the office and hurrying to the bathroom to cry it out. But then she mentioned how she notices my productivity comes and goes in waves. "You'll go a while getting a lot done, and then for a couple weeks you don't work as hard". I started crying almost instantly, but there was a moment -probably only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity- where a hundred thousand thoughts slapped me in the face all at once.

My last job was at a Subway, where I worked for two years. A couple months in, my anxiety disorder got to the point that I saw a doctor for the first time. I was unable to do closing shifts by myself because of it. I later found out from my manager that her boss/the store owner wanted to fire me upon learning about my diagnosis, but he couldn't (because of it being illegal). I eventually did get fired alongside a handful of other employees after a terrible annual audit. Everyone who worked the previous year was fired in a group meeting.

To this day I not only hold onto a lot of irrational guilt (a little piece of me feels like he wanted to fire me and used this as an excuse, but others went down with me. It's irrational for plenty of reasons, but namely that Indiana is an at-will state and he could've fired me without reason at any time), I also have a horrible fear of letting my employers know about my anxiety and bipolar issues for fear of losing my job, so I try to hide it. And until today, I thought I was doing a really good job of it, but that is clearly not the case.

So I opened up more to my boss. I told her how my husband and I are planning on moving to a larger city with better mental health care. I told her how some days I feel like I can't even get out of bed, even if it's the day after I couldn't be any more motivated and happy. She was more understanding than I ever could have hoped for.

I love my job. I love what I do. I love the people I work with. I love my boss. But some days are almost too much. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with the tasks at hand that I can't manage my time or not panic.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Despite my devout feminism and wholehearted endorsement of radical self-love, I find myself quite often feeling inadequate and inferior to many women. It makes me question my true drive for self-improvement. Do I want to get in better shape and go back to school and get a driver's license (something I've yet to do at 27) and stop eating junk food and strive to improve myself for me? Or do I want to do it in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses as it were? Do I love myself? Yes. But sometimes it feels very conditional, and I wish it didn't. I wish I didn't sometimes feel like my worth is determined by how close I am to being as good as another woman instead of how close I am to being the best version of myself that I can be.

My life feels boring sometimes. I have a husband and a cat and a job. And while those things are very instrumental in my happiness and day-to-day activities, I sometimes feel like I'm just an annoying thing, like a buzzing mosquito, that flies around the heads of those around me. They have other aspects of their lives to attend to and keep them busy. But I don't, and sometimes I don't know how to give people their space because I so desperately want them in my space. My social life is lacking at best, and I have little confidence in my creative outlets to the point that, while I enjoy them, they feel wasteful and foolish. No one will ever read what I write or enjoy my music or view my art. And I know I should do these things for me, but if I express myself because I want others to be able to relate but no one cares enough to relate, what's the point? I wouldn't cook a beautiful meal to feed 7 people, put out the place settings, light candles, create playlists, and decorate the kitchen for a dinner party if I wasn't expecting guests and only intended to reheat some days-old pizza for myself.

I don't feel suicidal by any means. I know I'm useful and important in many respects. But sometimes I feel like I'm useful in the same way any old cog in any old machine is useful. It's necessary for the continued function of the big picture, but it will ultimately one day wear out and be replaced and no one will be the wiser and eventually no one will even remember that it had even been replaced. I feel useful but in the most useless way, if that makes sense and doesn't just sound like some broody, attempted Bukowski-esque line (something something whiskey tits).

I'm just tired and sad and down, and so many things have got me here. Sometimes I miss things like cigarettes and excessive booze intake and self harm and Ativan and other self destructive things that I know better than in which to partake. Sometimes I just want to cry, and I do, and at least it's a healthy outlet. Sometimes I write in this shitty blog that no one reads, and again, it's a release that isn't physically inflicted upon myself, so it's okay.

Monday, March 10, 2014


I've been up the past few days. "Up", however, involves not just my cartoonish motivation to accomplish things being up, but also my anxiety being up. My blood pressure being up. My heartburn being up.

It seems that when a lot of people say "bipolar" they're using it in a shitty, sarcastic way to mean someone who is in a really good mood one day and a really bad or mopey one the next. Not only is it shitty to use mental illness as a punchline, it also reinforces falsehoods about the condition. Everyone knows what "depression" means. They may not fully comprehend the weight of it, but most people at least have an inkling of "depression" means. But a lot of times it seems "manic" is seen as being a polar opposite (what with the somewhat misleading name "bi-polar" and all). It's seen as overwhelming joy that just washes over the bipolar patient, turning them into some kind of unpredictable Jekyll and Hyde beast who is the friendliest, happiest, warmest person one day and a horrible monster the next. Let me make one thing clear: "Manic" does not mean "happy".

When I'm manic, I'm horribly restless, which really jacks up my GAD. If I don't harness that energy and do something productive with it, I crash into a horrible depression again, because I just become clumsy, reckless, and aimless. But if I acknowledge that I'm manic and that it is not in my control, I can usually focus at least a majority of that energy into something productive. For the past week I've been feeling very manic. I've also been really fucking sick (congestion to the point I felt claustrophobic, sore ears, sore throat, lethargy, dizzy spells). However, I worked a 38-hour work week (despite barely even remembering much of Monday and Tuesday), bought groceries, and as recently as yesterday, did a decent deep-clean of the house. I'm physically exhausted to a point that, non-manic, would make me horribly miserable. But if I didn't focus that energy, despite feeling so physically spent that I could drop, I would be so depressed right now that I wouldn't be able to get out of bed. Instead, I'm keeping the steam going as long as possible. I'm working 40 hours this week (8 down today! Woo!), and I plan on doing some intense grocery shopping, reading, studying, and video gaming.

Will I get depressed again? Yes. Do I know when? No. It could be in five minutes. It would be in two weeks. But acknowledging where I'm at and that I cannot control that it happens, only how I handle it, helps me cope with it.