In 2008, I was at a stalemate with my life. I had a job with a publishing company and was on meds for depression and back pain. The back pain had been real once, but became a syndrome and a cycle that was soon all in my head, like I became my back pain, instead of it being just a part of me.
It was at this point, around Christmas, that I was let go from a publishing job I thought (but knew deep down wasn’t) my dream gig. I had previously sought the help of a (purported) substance abuse specialist to get me off of the codeine, we were going to try a new experimental drug—suboxone—that he said would help with both depression and pain.
As soon as I went on that new drug, what I thought was my last beacon of hope, I lost sight of myself: I fell into a rabbit hole and didn’t come out for another year and a half. I don’t know where I went, but I just found a journal from that time and I don’t remember writing anything in it.
Apparently, I was considering having kids. I was feeling guilty for not having a 9 – 5 anymore, but I’d been unhappy with the cube life for years, slowly dying inside because I was a writer and a musician, but I wasn’t writing or really doing anything with my music. Sure, I was writing in my journal, and making up little melodies on the guitar, alone, in my bedroom, but mostly I was penning laments about sleeping all day and not being able to wake up at an acceptable time in the morning anymore.
The doctor was prescribing a (perchance deadly, in retrospect?) combination of Ambien, Ritalin, Lexapro, Klonopin and Suboxone. The thought now makes me want to vomit. I was walking through a cloud…nothing made sense anymore, but for some reason, I thought the problem was me, not the pills he was giving me.
I tried very hard to get out of that hole, and eventually I did. Everyone has what they feel are the dark days in their lives (I think. Right?) These were my darkest days—the days where my marriage started to change, the things I had wanted up until that point disappeared; I started to find, again, that my passion in this world was still music and writing, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to pursue it. I was too scared. And life was too expensive, so much of a struggle.
Three years ago, I checked myself into a rehab facility because I was unable to deal with the mental and physical pain that resulted from trying to taper off 5 different medications by myself, although I managed to lower all of the doses significantly and reduce it to only three medications. My doctor didn’t want to help me, told me I’d have to stay on them forever due to my “issues.”
I’ve been reflecting a lot on the uphill battle I’ve climbed since then, and whether or not I really want to share this experience with people. I realize that being vulnerable sucks, but its necessary if you want to grow in life.
So I’m training myself to keep doing it, even though people judge and criticize and ridicule and whatnot.
On a side note eventually leading back to my point, two cool things happened this last week in relation to music:
I went to an open mic after someone invited me along, and out of 40 people waiting to play I was given slot 9 by random chance. My friend bailed, so I gave his slot (14) to a singer-songwriter I met recently and she was stoked. As I walked up to the stage, she went “Woot!”
The emcee asked me as I approached the stage if I’d just wooted myself.
“Nope,” I said.
“I did,” said the singer-songwriter (we will call her ***) from the back of the room.
The emcee said, “If *** whistled you, then you must be good!”
I played my song, and afterwards, the emcee said, “My friend said to me when you were playing, ‘I want her voice.’ I think that’s what everyone was thinking, she just had the nerve to say it.”
A handful of talented musicians came up to me afterwards and said I did great.
Rewind to two and a half years ago, six or so months off those pills, newly back to practicing my songs, still not sleeping, feeling doom and anxiety daily. I went to this open mic, got on stage, and my leg shook so badly I couldn’t play the correct chords. My guitar was out of tune and I didn’t make sure I could hear myself in the mic. This same scenario happened the second time, too, only worse.
But I didn’t give up. I kept playing, I kept searching for musicians to work with, and I kept booking my own shows. Thus, the third scenario, in which I got wooted and people appreciated my song, and it was no big thang…
Second awesome thing that happened: The band Ours, fronted by Jimmy Gnecco, opened for Peter Murphy (frontman of Bauhaus) at a very small venue called The New Parish. I wanted to go for weeks but tickets, at $35, were outlandishly expensive on my part-time library salary (freelance work has been a bit dry lately, I barely have enough for gas and food). My friend got me on the guest list and split the cost of my ticket with me.
I have wanted to see Ours since someone handed me a flier for their show six years ago as I was walking near the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland. That show was $10. Jimmy Gnecco has an amazing voice, I admire his craft immensely.
I didn’t go to that $10 show. I regretted that for years…they didn’t play again for a long time.
This time, on the way, I was anxious. I got there an hour after doors opened. They were cash only. The only close ATM’s were broken.
Finally, I got cash and got in just as the show was starting.
The band’s performance was awesome. After they played, I saw the band members leaving the upstairs portion of the building, headed downstairs, probably to the van. Gnecco got stuck out in the smoking courtyard, he was being shuffled by his peers, and looked a little lost. The only way out of the courtyard was for him to turn towards me. So I said, “Hi.” He, cornered, looked at me, stopped for a minute. He was pretty slippery, he got from one side of me to the other in about three seconds, and was headed back upstairs.
“Great job,” I said to him quickly, before he fled, “You’re one of my favorite singers.”
He was nice–he paused, and shook my hand, I told him my name, and he said hi to my friend, too, before he vanished, shuffled off by his mini entourage.
My friend and I went down the street to Rudy’s after the show, and when we walked back to my car, the band were all sitting in their van waiting to leave. We walked on by. I’d already gotten all I wanted.
So I only partially stuck to my philosophy of Avoiding My Heroes, but whatever.
So. The point being this. I have made tiny little baby steps in my life over the past three years, but had you told me when I was a sobbing mess checking into rehab, thinking for certain I had brain damage and would never get better, that my life was over, this was it, I’d gone and messed it all up, that I would be living in Oakland again, standing on the floor of the New Parish with a birds eye view of one of my favorite singers upstairs walking around with his shirt off, I would have told you to shut the hell up. Any joy at all, even from little things, seemed impossible at that time.
Life, it seems now, is all about the simple moments. Thank heaven I can finally see and appreciate them!