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A Decade In Pointless Review

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Even though the ’10s were a great decade for me in a lot of respects, this current trend of taking stock of what you accomplished and sharing it with social media in a positive and uplifting way is bumming me the shit out. Could I write about how I gave up at a career-low only to bounce back and have a huge self-publishing hit and a blog series blah blah blah? Sure, but in the midst of a mental health crisis, it just feels…disingenuous. It reduces my life over the past ten years to just the good things and to be frank, sometimes the good things don’t outshine the bad. So, here are the important stats to take away, I guess. A lot of them are animal-related. I just like animals.

 

Cars paid off: 1

Student loans paid off: 2

Bones broken: 2

Doctor Who Doctors who sent me birthday wishes: 1

Times I went to Georgia: 3

Doctor Who Doctors I met super briefly via Skype: 1

Literary feuds: 5

Black bears petted: 1

Years I was allowed to drive: 6

Vacations that involved natural disasters: 1

Times I saw Billy Joel in concert: 3

Real Christmas trees: 0

Good Presidents: 1

Lawsuits: 1

Fandom awards for fanfic written specifically about Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon in Merlin7

Homes foreclosed on: 1

Name changes: 1

Great Horned Owls I spotted in the wild: 3

Funerals I ruined: 0

Funerals someone else ruined: 1

 

Surprised our kids with a trip to Disney World: 1

Times I saw a Bald Eagle running on the ground: 1

How stupid it looked, on a scale of 1-10: 10

How disillusioned I was, on a scale of 1-10: 8

Community theater productions: 8

Broadway World Regional Awards nominated ensembles performed in: 1

Seizures: so many.

Dogs that died: 2

Rats that died: 5

Hamster that died: 1

Corporations formed: 1

Father/daughter relationships tentatively repaired: 1

Visits to a mystical vortex: 3

Deer I shot at: 5

Deer I shot: 0

Deer that almost killed me: 1

Toxic friendships ended: 4

TV show finales that made me furious: 1

Phones dropped in toilets: 3*

Crafts I learned to do: 6

Times I attended mass: 17**

Times I worried about demon possession: constantly

Therapists: 3

Low brass instruments salvaged from someone else’s trash: 1***

 

Now, it’s November. There’s no reason to assume I won’t see another owl or drop my phone in the toilet within the next few weeks. If anything does happen that’s on this list, I’ll come back and update the total. But some of these would be downright weird as repeats.

Let everybody know some of your important stats for the decade. They don’t have to be inspirational or teach some positive lessons or anything. That shit is getting boring as hell. Let us know how many times you went to the dentist or watched Frozen. Tell us how many miles you put on your car or how many of your relatives died. Just throw out the highlight reel for the decade. And avoid Instagram until January.

 

*some phones were dropped in toilets multiple times

**best estimate

***it was a baritone

 

 

Well, that was a pothead move if I’ve ever made one.

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I don’t know if this has ever come up before since I keep my public persona so guarded, but I smoke a lot of weed.

A lot of weed.

Officially, so far as the State of Michigan is concerned, I’m using it to treat chronic pain due to Fibromyalgia. But it works for two other conditions I have, as well. When it’s available, I use high CBD, low THC strain called Charlotte’s Web to treat my Epilepsy. I use high THC strains to dull my pain but they also help treat my anxiety and OCD symptoms.

Obviously, the perfect time to stop using it is right before I start therapy, right?

Because I’m a ridiculous pothead, I had the thought, “you know, I’ve been smoking weed all day every day for like twelve years now. Maybe if I take a break for a month, it’ll reboot my system or something and I won’t have to smoke as much.” And I just…stopped. I stopped using a drug that I relied on to treat my anxiety while beginning therapy for PTSD.

My husband and my friend Bronwyn Green urged me to just go ahead and start smoking again, with Mr. Jen pointing out that it wouldn’t be okay to stop taking my Xanax or Zoloft “just to see what happens.” I often struggle with the urge to stop taking medications when I’m at a low point. This was no different. My brain had tricked me once again, sorting cannabis into the “not really a medicine” D.A.R.E. bullshit bin in my mind.

Nice try, brain. You stupid dick.

So, I started smoking again and hey, would you look at that? My panic attacks have lessened from three-to-five per day to whole days without one. Seriously, I have now gone two days without a panic attack. I had previously told someone that this was the most boring mental breakdown I’ve ever had because I wasn’t interested in anything. I couldn’t do anything or focus. Usually, I craft or paint or draw when I’m in a bad place. This time, I had no drive at all.

Today, I actually felt like working. I couldn’t do much, but I did some. Last night, I did some crafting. I even can watch a whole episode of The Crown at a time without wondering where the hell I am and what happened in it at the end.

I guess I’m just writing this as an update at this point. But kind of to celebrate that I was able to actually do something. I know I’m not better yet and I know there are going to be more lows. It’s still pretty cool to be able to recognize a high.

No pun intended.

State Of The Trout: “IDK what the fuck is going on” edition

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Hey there, party people. If you’ve been here a while, you know that I struggle with my mental health. Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down, sometimes I’m non-functioning. Right now, I’m in the non-functioning stage. Since I’m open about stuff like this I thought I would keep you all abreast of what’s going on. If you’re not in a good place mentally, probably you should stop reading here. You don’t need my bullshit on top of yours.

About three weeks ago, I had another major breakdown. My husband (who is awesome) was talking me through things. We’ve both had pretty harrowing experiences with the death of loved ones in the past three years. Mine was being at the ER with my grandfather as he died. For my husband, it was finding his mother dead in her apartment.

“It’s just like with your mom, right?” I asked him through hyperventilating, panicked tears. “You see her that way every single day. You remember finding her every single day and you like, relive it constantly.”

And he said, “No, Jen. I don’t.”

And then he said, “That shouldn’t be happening to you.”

For the past three years, any time I haven’t been bombarding my brain with something, anything to do, I’ve been in that emergency room. Taking a shower is hell because there’s nothing in there to distract me. I step under the water and I’m walking up to the desk with pills and clothes clutched in my hand, only to have the nurse say, “We don’t need those right now.” And in my head, I change things. I shove the bags at them. I scream at them that they have to take them, that they do need them. Or maybe the scene begins standing outside the trauma room, watching them perform CPR on my clearly dead grandfather. He’d fallen when he’d had his heart attack or stroke or whatever it was that took him out and he’d hit the back of the toilet, badly injuring his head. The scene was gory and chaotic and I see all of it in mind several times a day, even when I’m not actively reliving the scene. My mind has to be constantly in motion or else I’ll get trapped in that night. But I also can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. I check social media. I play a game on my phone. I write a few lines of a blog post. I write a few lines of a book. I text someone. I eat something. Rinse, repeat. If I try to focus for too long, the distraction fails me. I take several naps every day.

This has been going on for three years and I thought it was just a normal part of grief.

As a result, I’ve really isolated myself. I avoid my friends and extended family. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I get constant anxiety attacks. On a family vacation to Great Wolf Lodge, my kids took part in a CPR demonstration. Watching them do chest compressions on Rescecutation Annie while Tom & Jerry (one of my grandfather’s favorite things to watch) played on a TV in the background sent me right back to that emergency room. I wasn’t at a waterpark with my kids or my husband. I was trapped in that memory, all alone. I rationalize withdrawing from people and events with, “If I don’t stay close to people, it won’t add any more of this grief when they die.”

And that’s weirdly true. I didn’t feel grief for the five loved ones who’ve passed away since. I didn’t go to their funerals, except for one. When my best friend’s mom died, I did manage to go to the funeral. I sat on my bed, dressed and ready to go, repeatedly slapping myself in the face and calling myself a selfish bitch for not wanting the leave the room. That self-harm gave me the motivation to get to the church.

Self-harm is a huge component of my sickness. The night my grandfather died, I broke my big toe kicking a crash cart. Since then, I’ve intentionally and repeatedly scalded myself, pulled out chunks of hair, clawed my face and arms bloody, slapped myself, and bashed my head into the wall hard enough to cause a concussion.

Through all of this, I’ve consistently told myself that I am weak, I am selfish, I’m just being dramatic, I don’t deserve to think I’m actually sick, and most importantly, everyone is tired of me talking about it. I’ve become boring, people hate me, and everyone thinks I should suck it up. So, I’ve gone on, sitting in the shower and reliving a traumatic experience, telling myself I’m being childish because other people have it worse or have had worse things happen to them, locking myself away to slap my own face and call myself a bitch because I can’t get work done or stay on top of the housekeeping or because I lost my temper and yelled at my kids. I tell myself I’m awful and that everyone would be better off without me. Some days, my bright side thought is, “One day, I’ll be dead.”

That shouldn’t be anybody’s glass-half-full scenario.

A few days before the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, my grandmother fell. When I arrived, she was sitting on the floor in the bathroom, more embarrassed than hurt but unable to get up. The ambulance came. She was fine, just bruised and twisted up a little. She didn’t even go to the hospital. I drove home screaming. Just screaming. It didn’t make me feel better but I couldn’t stop. I just drove and screamed, drove and screamed. I pulled into my driveway and stayed in the car, repeating over and over, “It didn’t happen again. It’s not happening again.” But it was happening again. The drive to their house, the time of year, the ambulance, the fall in the bathroom, and suddenly I was back in that hospital room and I couldn’t get myself out.

My husband said that’s not normal. He made me call the doctor. When they asked me why I needed an appointment, I broke down. “There’s something wrong with me mentally and I don’t know how to get help. Help me.” Thankfully, they had an appointment that day. I went home with a prescription for Zoloft and a referral to a therapist. Seeing the therapist made me feel better and worse. I went into the office full of anxiety, sure I was going to be sent away after being scolded for wasting everyone’s time. Because I’m not as bad off as other people, because worse things have happened to other people, because my problem is that I’m lazy and stupid and I just want attention. Obviously, that didn’t happen but I was pretty sure that it should have. She gave me the number for a suicide helpline and all I could think was that I should never tie up their phone with my problems because other people deserved to live more than I ever would.

Through it all, emails have gone unanswered. My work has suffered. The book I wanted to release this month? It’s not even halfway done. I’d planned out a whole schedule for this blog for 2019. I haven’t gotten a quarter of it finished. Every now and then I’ll hit on some kind of “organization system” that seems to work but then it all falls apart because it’s a skyscraper built on a foundation of popsicle sticks. My memory is shot. If you asked me whether an event happened last year or the year before, I couldn’t tell you. I forgot that one of my uncles is dead. Earlier this week, I was shocked to realize that a friend of mine got divorced from her husband. It wasn’t that she hadn’t told me or I didn’t know. I just…forgot. Sometimes, I’m in a daze where I don’t know what’s going on at all. My grandmother mentioned my mom today and I couldn’t remember ever having met her.

Yet on the outside, I can fake being remarkably capable. I’ve been volunteering at local theaters. A friend who sang in the pit with me on a production said, “You were the one I was listening to so I could remember where we were.” I’ve been props master for several shows and pulled off feats of frantic mid-performance hot gluing. I’ve had big roles that required dancing, singing, and memorizing lines. I can pull all of that stuff off. I can stick to a running program (when my foot isn’t broken) and hit my goals. I can hang out with friends and laugh and talk and seem like me. But I stopped being me a long time ago. I have no idea who I am anymore.

I’m probably going to make more posts like these. Long, rambling, poor-me pity-parties that will result in weirdos sending me emails telling me to kill myself or leaving comments here talking about how much they hate that I’m dramatic and attention-seeking. It’s okay. I already think that stuff myself, all the time. And I do way better at it than any random internet person ever could. Because deep down, I know that this is ridiculous. Nobody wants to hear this bullshit. And I do write it in such a melodramatic way. But right now, I have all of this…whatever. I don’t know where to put it, so it’s coming out here.

But I promise it won’t be all my self-focused bullshit, all the time. As I said, I can be pretty good at faking being capable. But this is what’s going on behind the curtain. I just felt like being honest.

State Of The Trout Foot

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My foot is still broken! And may I just say, I had no idea that something as simple as a broken bone could possibly sideline me the way it did. After all, I spent a whole week in a plaster splint/cast thing, right? I should be healed by now.

Well, no, Jenny, why don’t you be realistic for once?

The good news is, I don’t have to have surgery. I’m wearing an air cast and slowly getting back to work. The air cast, by the way, is the most amazing medical technological breakthrough ever. With it on, I can walk around without pain. I can take it off to shower and sleep. I cannot, however, walk around with it off; I thought I’d roll those dice and grudgingly concede that perhaps the doctor knows more about bones than I do. I’ll stick to his instructions and continue periodically elevating it and not walking around like I could have possibly healed a whole broken bone in under two weeks.

There are a few other troubles I’m having, as well. Working for over a year to train for a race only to break your foot two days before that race is shockingly bad for your mental health. Also shockingly bad for your mental health? And I’m not being sarcastic at all this time? Injuring yourself doing something you have to do often in your own house. I have taken two showers since getting the plaster splint off. Both ended in me hyperventilating and crying when it came time to get out because suddenly, it seems so terribly dangerous. As a result, I’ve been bathing with those giant baby wipes they market to adults as “disposable washcloths” and avoiding going out. When I have to drive my daughter to rehearsal, I stay in the car, using my foot as an excuse. Really, I just don’t want them to see that I’m greasy as hell. I’m hoping I get over this somewhat quickly because even though I’m one of those weird people who don’t really smell, I’m always afraid that I smell and that makes my anxiety even worse and basically I’m just a broken nightmare of a person. But you knew that, because you’re here, reading this.

Now, onto the show. Anyone want to see some gross pictures? Awesome. I’m putting them behind the cut, though, because not all of you want to see my gnarly foot. And I’m gonna put a puppy picture first, so that comes up on the social media thumbnail instead:

My pit bull puppy laying on the couch beside an overturned and spilling basket of laundry. She's half in the spilling laundry.

She was sleeping in the laundry basket and it tipped over, but she kept on sleeping.

My hope for this week on the blog is to get the first chapter of The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp up on Friday, but again, we’re still playing it fast and loose with the injury and its aftermath. So, stay tuned, if you want to see something gross, click the cut link.

I should also warn you that the bulk of the grossness comes from my toenails. I have REALLY awful, ugly feet and I never show them under normal circumstances.

A Message From The Trout Nation Emergency Foot Update System

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Remember last week when I was like, “Yeah, whoo! Back to our regularly scheduled blogging! Also, I’m about to churn out a ton of kick-ass content because look at this amazing way I’ve scheduled my time! I laugh in the face of weekly deadlines! I’m sooooo organized!” and all that nonsense that was clearly going to jinx me?

Look at this stupid bullshit:

My left leg in a cast from just below my toes to almost my knee.
Pictured: BULLSHIT.

Wednesday afternoon, I made the mistake of taking a shower without, idk, limbering up first or calibrating my balance or something. I turned around to reach for the conditioner and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor with my left foot beneath me, folded in half.

Lengthwise.

Like a taco.

If you follow me on social media, you’ve already heard about this, probably including that description of my injuries. I spent the rest of the week and most of the weekend out of my mind on painkillers. Which you also know if you follow me on social media because nobody really supervised my phone time.

They didn’t supervise my movie or Kindle times, either, resulting in me purchasing two non-fiction books about Victorian surgery and watching It because I thought it was The Goonies.

Which you also know if you follow me on social media.

Right now, things happening in my foot are apparently not great. The last I saw of it before the cast went on was, swear to god, rectangular swelling. I didn’t know you could swell in a rectangle. It looks like someone stuck a Jenga block in there. That shape, that size. Shit is broken in there. I’m trying not to think about it because all I can imagine is vinyl purse full of Jell-O and loose, broken pottery shards. I’m seeing an orthopedic surgeon later this week.

So, you know, it’s safe to say that this week is a little up-in-the-air at the blog. I’m still on those heavy meds and sleeping most of the time. I’m going to try like hell to get The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp up this week, but I’m really not pushing myself. Please be patient with me, as I have never had an injury this serious before and I don’t really know how to take care of myself because I’m a disaster of a person.

The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp: Prologue

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It’s here! The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp is ready to be consumed by your eager eyes! I believe I may have promised the prologue and chapter one this week, but it’s just the prologue. I got a lot of balls in the air right now. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, please refer to this post in which I explain what I’m trying to do with this experiment. Otherwise, you’re gonna wonder what the hell is happening here.