“How Are You Today?”

“How are you today?”

I ask as I deftly take her cigarettes off the display and put them on the counter. She’s in so often that I know what she wants, and she doesn’t feel the need to ask me any more.

It’s something I ask all my regulars. Not everyone. But I know her, not her name, but her face, her smile. I know that she just got twists in her hair two weeks ago and she fiddles with them while we talk. I know she likes Newport 100s and Hershey’s with almonds if we have them in the display at the counter. We both love red lipstick, and look forward to mornings when we can sleep in and not have to see each other at 7 am. I know her, and she knows me. She’s one of my regulars, and so I always ask her.

“How are you today?”

She looks at me for a moment, her eyes narrowing slightly, her hand reaching for her hair. After a second, she says it.

“What does a panic attack feel like?”

She doesn’t know that I have panic attacks, or that I have a grad degree in social work. She doesn’t know about my 12 psych hospitalizations, my 7 daily psych meds, my endless work with my shrink. I’m just the girl with the red hair at the store.

“Sometimes it feels like you’re dying. Like your heart is exploding. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it feels like all the life is draining from you, like your whole body is going numb. Sometimes it’s something totally different. But if you think you’re having one, you probably are.”

She fiddles with her hair. I worry that I’ve overreached, but then she speaks.

“I’ve felt that way for the last week.”

It’s a week and two days since the election. Neither of us acknowledge that. No need. No need for me to do anything but ring up her cigarettes and say goodbye. But that wasn’t going to happen.

“I know. Trust me, I know.”

God, I know. I know the draining of all feeling. The hole in my being, the fear, the anger, the unbelievable feeling of WHY and HOW and WHAT NOW. I say it again.

“I know.”

She looks into my eyes and I into hers. A beat passes. She hands me her money and I hand her the cigarettes. Our hands touch for the briefest of moments. Our eyes locked, I manage a half-smile and say

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Not a question. A statement. Tomorrow will come, I’ll be here. I promise I’ll be here. Promise me you’ll be here too. Promise me with the $8.68 and pack of Newports as collateral. Promise me.

“Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She manages a half-smile too, and we separate. She glances back quickly, then leaves the store. I turn to the wall of cigarettes and busy my hands unnecessarily straightening the packs. She promised me, I tell myself, and I promised her. We have collateral on it.

“How are you today?”

If I don’t say it to you, it’s because I don’t think you need it. I don’t say it to just anyone. But if you and I see each other a lot, some every damn day, if I know that you like Marlboro Light Menthol 100s, two packs, and a Vitamin Water, purple, every morning. If you come in when I work late nights when the store is quiet to do your weekly run, if we are both yawning at 7 am sharp and you skitter in for cigs and a bottled coffee, if I KNOW you, and you recognize the girl with the red hair is working today, if you look me in the eyes and say hi, if you look like there’s a lot on your mind, if you usually smile but not today, if I can feel you needing me to say it. I will. And I’ll mean it.

“How are you today?”

If you remember my face, that’s nice. If you remember what I asked and meant, even better. If you don’t remember either of those things but feel the slightest bit better after I ask you and you don’t even know why? That’s the best. Maybe you don’t notice at all.

But I’m going to keep asking.

 

I’m Back! But I Never Really Left!

Flings self into room

Hey there, everyone! Everyone? Anyone? Anyone still here?!?

Okay, okay, listen. Let me explain. Okay, let me sum up. YES, I vanished for a couple months, but I swear, I’m fine. No bin, no drama, nothing like that at all. I promise. I just got a job (I KNOW!) I got a retail job and oh, my beloved squirrels, it has been kicking my ASS. So in the interest of keeping said job, we’ll just call it “The Store” and leave it at that, okay? It’s a store. I wear a name tag. I’m a register wrangler. It’s pretty okay for the most part, I mean, it’s the first gig I’ve had in about 10 years, so I’m pretty pleased with myself that I haven’t quit for two whole months, but that’s neither here nor there.

The big thing is that I wasn’t writing because I was doing other things. Like writing! I KNOW! I write weekly for A Madison Mom as their style editor and I’ve kept THAT job too! That’s two jobs! And I still help out with Small and Tiny whenever I am needed there, but that’s not a job. That’s a heaping helping of love, that’s what that is.

So I’ve been busy! And most of it is really good. I like doing customer service, and helping people, and chatting up customers, etc. Who knew that the same Banshee who wouldn’t leave her apartment for weeks at a time would have a job where she talks to and helps people all day? Not me, that’s for sure. Not that it’s all sunshine and roses. Sometimes the store is crowded and people are mean and we’re understaffed and over-scheduled and oh goddo the holidays are coming and HELP! But mostly it’s good.

Also I went to Disney World AND Harry Potter World, and it was insanely awesome, but that’s a post for another day. I got a wand. Holy crap, it was the best.

So anyhoodle, I wanted to tell y’all I’m sorry for up and vanishing AGAIN, but can you believe it was for something good and not horrible??? I KNOW! I’m really going to work on getting back to the blog more often when I’m not working working working, because I do love it, and I love y’all. Uh, y’all are still here, right???

Hellooooooooooo???

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…

HOW TO PUT ON SHAPEWEAR IN 20 EASY STEPS

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!