The Myth Of The Safe Space

As the kids are going back to school a lot is being said about the concept of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” and the like. And since I’m a great many years out of college, I was pretty much out of the loop. But I started rambling on Twitter tonight, and figured out that I really did have something to say about it. So here goes.

When I was a sophomore in college, I had a bad night. The specifics of it really escape me, but I was a cutter. I kept it more or less in check, but I really, really felt the urge that night. That’s really all I remember about the preamble to this story, and that’s the thing that brought me to the incident. That night, I didn’t want to cut. I didn’t. I wanted the feeling to pass, to ride the wave of what was going on that seemed so tremendously important at the time, and to move on. And for that, I needed to be around someone else. Someone safe. Someplace safe. I, decades before it became a buzz word, needed a safe space. And the results of looking for one were catastrophic.

I went to my RA. We had been told over and over that this is what their job was. It was late, my friends were out or busy or I didn’t want to rehash what was upsetting me, whatever. Doesn’t matter. I went to my RA and asked for help. And…well…She freaked out. The minute I said I was a cutter, and that I didn’t WANT to cut that night, that all I needed was someone to talk to, all I needed in the entire world was someone to talk to, she lost it. Suddenly there was the RD. And hushed, frantic tones. And then I was informed, as I dully stared into space, knowing that something had gone horribly wrong, that I didn’t deserve that space, that I didn’t deserve that comfort, that safety, that SAFE SPACE, I was informed that if I didn’t “go quietly” to the ER at New England Medical Center, that I would be forcibly taken there. I didn’t want to make a scene, did I? So I went. I was lost, and terrified, and the only people with a modicum of authority told me to do something. So I did.

In the ER, I was summarily dumped by the RA and RD, and put in a bright, cold room. The door was locked, security was at the door. I was in hysterics. I also had my jacket with me. In the inside pocket of my jacket was a hard plastic knife that looked like a tent post. I always had it with me. Downtown Boston could be shady back then, and there it always stayed in my jacket, just in case. They never took my jacket, they never looked for weapons. I was alone, in that cold, bare room, with my knife. And HAD I been suicidal, as was my immediate diagnosis, I could have ended it before they ever unlocked the door. How careless of them, I thought. Someone could hurt themselves in here. Not me, of course, not me. All I wanted to do was call my mother. But they had told me no on the way in, so I sat there with my jacket on the floor, sobbing and rocking until a psych resident came in, gave me a memory test, some brisk, formal questions, and left.

I was bereft. All I wanted to do was go home. Back to the dorm where I could go to sleep and forget all about that night. But I couldn’t. In fact, I sat there for hours until a sweet med student came in and told me that if I just calmed down and spoke rationally, they would let me go home. And I did. And they did.

I walked back to my dorm in the freezing night, around 4 AM, alone. I let myself back into my room, draped my jacket, knife still in it, over my chair, took a shower, and went to my early Western Civ class. And I promised myself something.

I promised myself that I would never, ever, EVER ask for help again.

What if “safe spaces” had really existed back then?
What if the dorm staff had been better trained?
What if?

I’ll never know. And I’ll carry that night with me for the rest of my days. And today, 20 years later this winter, I STILL have a hard time asking for help. I’m suspicious. I don’t trust people as a rule. I remember that promise I made myself that night in the ER.

After that night, it took another 11 years for me to really ask for help. And even then the road was just beginning.

I wish it had happened that night. But it didn’t. Because there were no safe spaces. So when I hear people saying “back in the day we didn’t have safe spaces and look how we turned out!” I can’t help but look at my life now, and my scars, and the mountain of psych pill bottles on my nightstand, and the ruins of so many years since that night, and I think,

“Yeah. Look how we turned out.”

Under Construction – The Drugstore Cowgirl

People! This blog is not going away!!!

The Drugstore Cowgirl

Yes, I have another identity on the internet, and yes, I have a weekly gig, but this blog isn’t going anywhere.

Yer stuck with me.

Cause I love ya!

I want to put my new blog stuff up, but I have to speak to Admin Aaron, cause building websites makes my eyes wander to shiny stuff. Then I mess everything up and BOOM, I’ve messed everything up. But this little corner of the internet isn’t going ANYWHERE. It’s just getting bigger. An extra limb, if you will. A new arm, with bangles and a large but tasteful cocktail ring. So that’s that.

This blog is a work in progress always. Just like me! And yes, content. Which I will try to bring you next week, cause this week is fried banana chips insane. You can read my style things thus far here at A Madison Mom, where I try new products, review services and beauty/style stuff, and have fun. That’s it for now, hope you’re well, my beloved little squirrels. Cause I’m doing great.

A million kisses (in the European way, dahling, mwah mwah)

Miss Banshee

How To Put On Shapewear In 20 Easy Steps

Soooooooo, how is everyone? Doing okay? Surviving today’s literal climate (y’all, it is hot. It is SO HOT and I MIGHT melt every time I open the damn door) and the political climate, which is taking quite the heavy toll on so many people, myself included. I’ve been very active in social media, and writing, and then not writing, and I just don’t feel right when I’m not writing, so in the interest of making y’all laugh, because we ALL need a tiny, glimmering drop of laughter in the midst of all the pain of the world, I give you something I wrote on my birthday last month and has just been floating in the ether. I hope it can give you a little respite from the world’s problems, if only for a moment. So in closing, may I just say in the immortal words of our friend Jerry Springer, “Take care of yourselves, and each other.”

And now without further ado, I present…


So you’ve bought some Shapewear™! Congratulations! I have compiled a simple to-do list to make the most of your exciting new purchase.

  1. Remove Shapewear™  from shopping bag. Save plastic bag. (More on this later)
  2. Inspect Shapewear™ . Look at this product. Seems…impossibly small, correct? Ponder what on earth possessed you to purchase this product. Look over at the cute new dress you bought along with the Shapewear™ . Remember why you bought this impossibly small, very strangely constructed product.
  3. Cautiously place feet through the Shapewear™ . Mutter aloud “This is never going to work. I got a C- in Physics, but I KNOW this is not going to work. Stand in front of mirror with the Shapewear™ puddled at feet. Contemplate your place in the universe. Contemplate the directions you will go in once you have mastered Shapewear™ . Grab Shapewear™  and start tugging it over your legs, northward towards your waist.
  4. Tug.
  5. Pull.
  6. Swear a lot.
  7. Pull, wiggle your legs, pull more, feel the Shapewear™  adhere to your legs in a sheen of sweat. Curse the concept of summer.
  8. Hop to the air conditioner. Crank it to High. Hop to the fan. Crank it to High. Feel exactly zero change in the temperature of the room. Swear some more.
  9. Do an interpretive dance in the manner of a pre-schooler who needs  to use the bathroom as you pull the crotch of the Shapewear™  between your legs. Scream in victory as the Shapewear is now flush with your underpants. Observe that the remainder of the Shapewear™  lies limply around your waist. Realize you have won the battle, but the war rages on.
  10. Give the Shapewear™ a pep talk. Encourage it to be proud of itself and do the job it was created to do. Yell aloud to an empty room that this is CLEARLY the wrong size but that you will continue to put it on, as this is now your mission. NAY, your QUEST. You will not be defeated by this sick, twisted product of misery.
  11. Pull, yank, tug, beg, bargain, lather, rinse, repeat.
  12. Lather, rinse, repeat again.
  13. Cry a little.
  14. What is this? The Shapewear™  is moving! It’s actually going over your stomach and torso!
  15. Pull. Pull harder. Scream aloud to an empty room “This! IS! SPARTA!!!!” as you triumphantly pull the Shapewear™  over your entire torso.
  16. Try to catch your breath. This is impossible due to the Shapewear™ .
  17. Model the Shapewear™  in the mirror. Feel insufferably smug.
  18. Realize you have to go to the bathroom. Feel the cold wind of the air conditioner wailing “There are nooooo snaaaaaaaaps in the crooooooooootch of the Shapeweaaaaaaaaaaar™ ” Realize that you are the one wailing.
  19. Rip the Shapewear™  off your body. Throw it in the plastic bag. Fling the bag across the room.
  20. Eat Gummi Bears™ naked in front of the air conditioner.

On This, The Occasion Of Your 39th Birthday

It’s your birthday today.
You would have been 39.
And on June 30, I will turn 39.
You will be forever younger than I am.
You will be forever 38.
And 38 isn’t old at all.
You were always supposed to be 8 days older.
Ha ha, you get the last laugh.
Is there WiFi where you are?
Did you see what Adam wrote for you.
He’s an amazing writer,
Much better than I will ever be.
But you knew that.
He’s your soulmate, after all.

Your name is still in my phone.
That’s ridiculous.
But it’s still there
And it probably always will be.
Because “Call me any time!”
Was the last thing you said to me.
So I keep your number in my phone.
Just in case.

Did I Mention I Got Published In MARCH? Obviously Not. Sigh.

Oh my lordo. Squirrels. I completely forgot that I didn’t put this up HERE when it was published back in March. Because let’s face it. I can get a weeeeeee bit scatterbrained at times. To say the least. Ahem.

Anyway, here’s a piece I wrote for The Establishment, a magnificent online publication that is skyrocketing in popularity due to covering some extremely serious and important issues. I was proud and honored that they chose me to be one of their contributors. Here’s the link:

See Me: Fighting The Invisibility of Mental Illness

I’ll be back soon, since the political arena is so fraught with issues that I’d love to address, and I promise some well needed silliness as well. I have loads of stories about babysitting the kidlets I live with, including snippets like this:

Me: SMALL. Put down the iPhone and get your buns in bed. Please.

Small: I dropped it.

Me: So…pick it up?

Small: I dropped it behind the couch.

Me: WHY…HOW…What were you even doing in that ROOM?

Small: You’ll never get it out.

Me: WELL NOW NEITHER WILL YOU. Wait. I am the adult.

Small. Mmm.

Me: I’m getting the crowbar.

So that’s why I was wielding a crowbar behind a couch. And I didn’t even swear in front of little ears. Cause they totally would have ratted me out.

Longer post soon. See ya!



Achievement Unlocked

Friends, I have been on such an emotional roller coaster today I feel exhilarated and also slightly nauseous. Also, is is “nauseous” or “nauseated?” I was taught that one finds something “nauseous” but is “nauseated” by it. Let me know in the comments, if this little quandary of mine isn’t nauseating you.

I just wrote a whole paragraph about the semantics of being pukey. Let’s quickly move this along. I promise this post gets better.

SO. Yesterday, things happened. Political things. Big ol’ political things. If you know me personally you already know my leftist ways, so I will say one thing about politics and then we will merrily roll along, because let’s face it, there are so many political thinkpieces being churned out on the internet today you’d think people were actually being paid for them. So here’s that thing.

United in blue, no matter who.

Okay, that’s all I wanted to say about that.

Yesterday was also a banner productivity day for me. In the midst of juggling both “The Bachelorette” and primary results viewing, I managed to plow out 2.460 words of my memoir. That’s 2,460 words more than I had before, which was 0 words, and that isn’t very many at all. So yay! Many words were written! I felt pretty spiffy about that. Of course I’m currently writing a blog post instead of writing many more words of my memoir, but that’s neither here nor there. I wrote, and it was very difficult stuff, and I will be discussing it at length with my therapist tomorrow. I love my therapist, who knows me from way back, since she is part of the outpatient program that I have gone through… four? No, five times. Because I enjoy being difficult. So she knows when I’m bullshitting her, and when I start over-intellectualizing instead of being emotionally vulnerable, and when I’m really making progress. She’s a good egg, and I’m lucky to have her.

Today began with an impromptu college reunion of sorts with three people I haven’t seen in almost two decades, and it was surreal in some ways and familiar as if we just saw each other in the performing arts building yesterday. It was touching and funny and just…four people laughing over coffee the way we could have done in 1995 when we started at Emerson College. It was a testament to my therapy and meds that I was able to go  at all, because it involved driving almost an hour to get to the meeting spot, in a town I had never gone to before, and being social for almost two hours. A year ago I would have ignored the invitation. Six months ago, I would have come up with an excuse and continued to hide away in my little Hobbit Hole of a room. I would have been sad, for certain, but would have talked my way out of it. Mental illness is crafty that way. It can convince you that it’s your best friend, lover, and the only thing in the world that understands you. Mental illness can wrap you in a blanket of fear and convince you it’s the only safe place to be.

Because it lies. As Jenny Lawson, famously known as The Bloggess, astutely says, depression lies. Oh how it lies. All mental illnesses lie. Because they want you to be alone. When we’re alone with our illnesses, they become our entire world. They lock the doors, shutter the windows, turn off the lights and convince us that this dark, lonely room is the entire world. They thrive in solitude and darkness, gaining strength that they suck from us. Psychic vampires feeding on our minds and hearts, draining us of feeling and light and hope. Growing strong with lies and fears that they drill into our minds. Because if they can keep us in that dark tiny room, it’s easier for us to forget the rest of the world.

I have lived in that room. I still do, when I get tired and feel vulnerable, small, and sad. When I know what I’m feeling isn’t real, but I still can’t convince myself to fight it. The fighting is what keeps me alive, but I’m so damn tired sometimes. Do you get tired? It’s okay if you do. We all get tired sometimes. But sometimes we get a rush of bravery and go have coffee with old friends. Or we get brave enough to speak up when someone is telling us what we should think or do. Or we get brave enough to go outside, or open a window. Or simply get out of bed. When we do things like that, the mental illnesses lose a little of their life force. Sure it might come back even stronger tomorrow, but not right now. And that’s good enough for me.


This Is An Antidepressant: A Rebuttal

Much has been discussed about this meme, and boy howdy do I have things to say.

No, this MEME is shit.

No, this MEME is shit.

What a…let me gather myself here for a second.


I am here to tell you, and with lots of righteous anger (I’m talking some Sam Jackson righteous anger) that this meme is what is wrong with the way a lot of people think about mental illness. And shit like this has got to stop.

There is nothing wrong with getting out of the house and fucking licking a tree, IF THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. Personally, I have to remind myself every day to leave the house at least once. Some days, I have to remind myself to do other things, like leave the bed. And if I leave the bed, to shower. And eat. And breathe. Some days I go flouncing out of the house with my hair and makeup done and I have myself a perfectly acceptable day. Other days it seems like I weigh a million pounds, and all of those pounds are CONCRETE and there is no way I even have the motivation to turn on the goddamn Food Network because that is the only goddamn channel that guarantees to never make me watch the horrors that are going on in the world and the worst thing that will happen is Guy Fieri is on fourteen times in a row.

Some days are good. Some days are bad. But you know what? Every day, no matter what, I at least take my meds. Because we all know what happens when I don’t take my meds, don’t we, my beloved squirrels? Yes, bad things happen. Very very bad things happen. So I at least choke down my meds. And if I can choke down my meds, maybe I can sit up, and if I sit up, maybe I can get up. And everything is gravy after that.

If you don’t have to take meds, that’s wonderful. Good on you. But never, ever feel ashamed or bad or wrong for taking your meds. Know that we who have to take meds are doing it so we can stick around for another day. And that’s important. That’s SO important and never let anyone tell you otherwise. The stigma against meds helps keep us sick and in the shadows, and I am sick of it. I want us to shout about how we love ourselves enough to keep our bodies living for another goddamn day, and that day might both suck and blow, but at least we’re around for it. By opening our eyes we WIN. We win against the demons that live in our heads and all the forces that want to keep us down. We win against people like whoever was so bold and brass and IGNORANT to make this STUPID MEME that wants to keep us down.

And we don’t have to take it anymore.

We can fight the stigma. Some of us yell and scream and go to rallies and volunteer and work and hold jobs and have families and can pass as “normal.” Some of us reach out from under the blankets in the morning and fumble for our meds and take them and go right back under the covers. Some of us can’t even do that. Some of us are in psych units and rehabs and jails, some of us are so lost inside our minds that inside is all we know anymore. And most of us are somewhere in between all those places. But you know where we aren’t?

We’re not in the fucking ground. Not today.

So fuck you, meme, and fuck you, whoever made this meme and patted themselves on the back for it. Some people are extremely sweet and diplomatic about their rebuttals to this bullshit, but not me. I’m furious. Don’t worry if it scares you. I’ll be furious FOR you. And if you feel small, or invisible entirely, or ashamed because of this meme? I’ll hold your hand and do whatever I can to prove to you that this meme is wrong. It’s wrong. Not you.

This meme is wrong. Not you.

If you can go out into the sunshine today and that’s enough? Wonderful.

If you can open a window and look at the outside and that’s enough? Wonderful.

If you can reach out into the darkness and take your meds and that’s enough? Wonderful.

But don’t ever think whatEVER you do to stay above ground today isn’t enough.

It’s enough.

We’re enough.

We’re still here.

And that’s enough.

That's better.

That’s better.