“What’s this pumpkin doing here?”

I missed a lot of Cinderella’s final rehearsals. Being backstage with the kids helping with hair and makeup, assisting with crew and costumes, and just *being there* ~ pretty much my favorite thing ever. But I’ve been really sick with a long migraine attack / flare for almost two weeks, making me feel unreliable and flaky, and even worse, like I’m being overly dramatic and self-centered.

Migraine disease doesn’t give me a choice. It seems to flare most during times of increased activity or stress. The more medication I take to try to keep going, the less well it works. Guilt and sadness on top of fatigue on top of pain. When I can’t be there during important times people stop relying on me, stop expecting me. Stop bothering to figure out how I’m doing because it’s always the same. Migraine again. “Wasn’t she doing that study?” “Won’t she ever get better?” “Why does she sign up for things in the first place?” 

Why did I have kids? Why even try?

Why live at all?


A pumpkin is still just a pumpkin. I was able to go tonight, but having missed almost all of Tech week, I didn’t have any jobs other than to be there for my kids.

Who didn’t want me.  Why should they?

X is 12 now. She thinks she may be asexual, and I love that she has a smorgasbord of labels from which to figure out how she fits into the world of relationships. Especially among theatre and arts kids, there are fewer strictly straight kids than otherwise.  But she is spending a lot of time with a couple boys this show, both of whom I like. Her current two  closest show friends are one boy and one girl both a year or so older than she. X used to need me at shows and all the older kids accepted me being there, and still accepted her. I would find ways to be needed besides just as support for my insecure kid.

Now she doesn’t need me and that’s fine and right and as it should be. Except that she totally freaked out over the makeup artists asking her to pull her bangs back. “I won’t be recognizable on stage,” she whined. “I won’t look like me.” I said, you aren’t supposed to look like you. You’re supposed to be Fairy #1. It ended up being okay. After the makeup was applied I pulled some wisps down over her forehead. Her male buddy distracted her by pointing out how the school’s signs were in all upper case. “Everyone is yelling all the time.” Her female buddy told her she looked beautiful. She did.

This female buddy, Fairy #2, drove X crazy at first. Doesn’t it always begin like that? The other night she threw her arms around me and exclaimed “I love you, Stage Mom!”

So why did X start acting the way she did? But she’s 12. She’s seeking independence. I’m okay with it.

Zo, I am not so okay with. She is playing a mouse puppeteer / horse and villager. She has plenty of kids her age there to hang out with. There have been some conflicts because all four mice are leader-types. She’s 8. X was never in a production that young. Zo is used to the stage, having been in three Nutcracker ballets and four big recitals for dance. And I am always there for those, I have to be. As for Cinderella, at home, she acts like she wants me at rehearsals / performances, but when we’re actually there she is rude and looks at me like she is disgusted. I don’t know if you’ve seen the photos, but I am not gross or embarrassing. Particularly among theatre kids I am even considered cool, heavily tattooed and pierced as I am. And I don’t really hover, I don’t treat Zo like a baby. So ripping away from me and shrugging me off when I’m trying to help her? I don’t get it. Competing with her sister, John thinks, or wanting to feel older. I don’t know.

But I managed to get there tonight after being in the ER yesterday and it was very hot in the green room. And I dealt with X’s tantrum about her bangs, helped her deal with a broken prop, found the Fairy Godmother’s missing staff, located Zo’s mouse puppet which she was told to find. And yet felt completely, sadly superfluous.

I asked both of them if they needed anything and was answered with shrugs.  So I left.

“Put it in the pantry,” the Queen instructs Lionel regarding the pumpkin that has suddenly appeared outside the palace. “We don’t want anyone falling over it.”


No one sings like you anymore

Trigger Warning: meandering discussion of suicide and substance abuse


This RS article rocked me to my core, kept me up writing and thinking two nights in a row.

Depression, trauma, substances. Stigma, shame, and suicide.

First, the substances. Ativan is usually prescribed in 1 mg tablets. No matter how it is administered, 4 mg is the max recommended dose. The nanograms per milliliter of blood measurement used here is extremely difficult to translate, even using an online conversion tool, so I have no idea how much he actually had ingested, but I am guessing 5-6 mg since they are saying more than the usual dose but not one normally  associated with fatality. That makes sense according to his wife’s statement that he took “a couple extra.”

Info about Ativan (lorazepam): https://www.drugs.com/amp/ativan.html

Butalbital as far as I know is not available by itself but is commonly prescribed in a compound formula for “tension” headaches which most specialists now understand are part of migraine disease. The brand name of the butalbital/ caffeine/ acetaminophen compound is Fioricet. I have used this med on and off my whole life, formerly concurrent with Xanax or Ativan. It also is available with codeine, which is what I had been prescribed (I now have Fioricet without codeine and no longer take anti-anxiety meds). The article does not mention acetaminophen, but does mention caffeine, which they claim was from No-Doz. 

Info about Butalbital, a barbiturate: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butalbital

Did Chris suffer from migraines? Or as a rock star in recovery, was he able to get this combination of meds specially prescribed for anxiety and / or insomnia? Many former drug users in recovery are prescribed Ativan. (But why take caffeine separately, particularly with sedatives? Was it a “cocktail” he’d discovered that produced a non-narcotic, non-alcoholic high?) The naloxone is interesting too. It’s an antagonist, but in combination with these other drugs it could (maybe?) act similarly to a narcotic in increasing the effects of the depressants. Naloxone only stops the action of opiates. [Editing again to add that I read one article stating Naloxone (Narcan) may have been injected by emergency responders after he was found.]

Also in his system when he died was pseudoephedrine, brand name Sudafed. It is taken for sinus pain / headache which also can be part of migraine disease. Like caffeine, it is a stimulant. The combination of sedatives, barbiturates, and stimulants is particularly dangerous.

In my 20s and 30s there were many instances when I took the above meds together as prescribed for migraine, with an opiate as well, and then combined them with a lot of alcohol during nights of social binge-drinking. I also had occasional extreme mood swings which, I realized with prompting from John, after I was no longer taking it, were brought on by the Fioricet 3 (w/ codeine) in particular, exacerbated by the anti-anxiety meds. These sudden bursts of intense emotion included both violent rages and severe depression. [Editing to make clear that the violence was against inanimate objects, not people or myself.]

As well as feeling incredibly sad about the circumstances surrounding Chris’s suicide, I am sort of feeling damn lucky to be alive. I think I am made of stronger stuff than I realized. 

I keep adding to and revising this post. And I am so fucking sad, getting more and more so. Chris Cornell was a grunge success story, a man who grieved for and celebrated the tragic deaths of friends and fellow musicians, most famously in Temple Of The Dog, and who seemed to triumph over trauma to choose life, to choose music and family and love and philanthropy and friendship over giving in to despair. John told me the song “Slaves & Bulldozers” basically saved him as an adolescent recovering from abuse. He sent me the lyrics in a text the day Chris died, and they read as though Chris himself may have been molested or raped. As fans know, he ended with that song in Detroit hours before his death, blending it with “In My Time of Dying” by Led Zeppelin. If my wings should fail me Lord, please meet me with another pair.  /  I hope I did somebody some good. / So I can die easy…..  The song is filled with Catholic imagery. Like John, Chris went to Catholic school. Like John, he seemed to worry about his soul. Like John, his parents got divorced, and considering Chris chose to use his mother’s maiden name in the aftermath, it may have been messy and horrible. 

I just read an article about how the stories surrounding this death relate to the stigma involved with suicide as well as medications. When someone dies from opening up the veins in their arms, the razor blade isn’t blamed, the author said. I see her point, but also see the flaws in that argument since weapons don’t alter one’s thoughts the way many drugs can. I maintain my agreement with Vicky and my own statements throughout this post regarding the devastating mood effects the combination of butalbital, caffeine, and Ativan can have. HOWEVER. Depression leads to suicide. Ativan and Butalbital did not kill Chris Cornell. Depression did. The meds may have altered that triumphant will to live despite the darkness just enough for him to give in to the rain that couldn’t, finally, be washed away. Depression needs to be discussed without shame and blame. Depression kills. 

As for me, please know that I am MUCH more careful with medications now. There is no reason to worry about Current Me. But Past Me? Damn girl, that was some stupid, careless shit. Careless because of my occasional choice to start drinking before all the chemicals were out of my system; but yet, I was taking legitimately prescribed meds for the symptoms of my illness. And I could have died. Why didn’t I? Other than occasionally wanting to go to sleep and never wake up I have never truly felt suicidal (exceptions would be when I took Topamax and other anti-epileptics, but even then it was sleep forever type suicidal). I have never had to engage in that fight to overcome constant thoughts of ending my life.

I am more relieved than I can say that my family was spared the agony Vicky and her kids are enduring right now, because I think she was right. Without that strange but familiar-to-me cocktail of meds, maybe Chris would not have taken his life after surviving so much for so long; after publicly grieving the early deaths of his friends and contemporaries; after marrying again and producing children who are still young (he also has as an older daughter). There but for the grace of John, X, & Zo go I, as paraphrased from Winston Churchill, Sherlock Holmes, and Simon & Garfunkel. Or maybe, I simply was never at that kind of risk because my own depression never convinced me my family would be better off without me. Suicide is not selfish. For those who suffer that severely it can feel like the only option. Suicidal ideation, especially exacerbated by mind-altering drugs, tricks you into believing your loved ones will be better off without you to bring them down and perhaps ruin their lives as your own feels ruined beyond redemption and repair. 

Chris Cornell, you beautiful, troubled man, thank you for creating art that soothed my traumatized partner in his youth. Thank you for your words and your voice, which sustained much of Generation X when we were falling on our own black days. What trauma did you suffer in your own childhood that created the anxiety and depression you sang about and spoke of in interviews? What supreme sadness bubbled to the surface that made death seem like the only way out?

This post has morphed many times. It no longer flows as well as I’d like. But there is nothing easy about discussing depression, trauma, grief, and suicide. PLEASE, readers of my blog, sufferers of chronic pain and depression and PTSD, substance-users, whether illicit or prescribed or both, trauma survivors, suicidal-thought fighters, you are not alone. You are worthy. Whether I know you or not I am glad to share this planet with you. Get through the next hour, the next day, one moment at a time. Get help. 

I am so glad I got to see Chris perform in his grunge heyday. I am so glad that despite frequently imbibing nearly the identical combination of meds found in his toxicology report, I am still here to rock out to and revel in his tortured genius, his swan songs; that, as Eddie Vedder triumphantly bellowed through the pouring rain at that same Lollapalooza in 1992, I’m still alive. 

I just wish Chris Cornell were still alive too. Oh but do I deserve to be / Is that the question? / And if so, if so / Who answers? 

Who answers?

Flashback Friday

I stayed in bed all morning. Yesterday I had to give myself a Sumatriptan injection first thing; the morning before I’d needed to take a tablet. No migraine this morning, but maybe postdrome. In a sort of desultory way I scrolled through Facebook. I don’t always check my “On This Day” memories, but I did, even going so far as to read the blog post that came up because I remember it being significant.

When I went downstairs, I had a very uneasy, not-quite-anxious, not-quite-depressed feeling, an ache below the rib cage that made me feel helpless and vulnerable. My depression has been very well controlled lately, so I felt like I needed to figure out the source of this. Postdrome? Trump angst?

I finally realized maybe it was from reading the blog entry.

It was titled “WWED: What Would Elizabeth Do?” and was about the fact that I didn’t like who I’d become in the year since quitting my job and in fact barely knew myself. At the time I wrote it three years ago, Dr P had only recently dumped me as a patient after I bared my soul to him. I hadn’t yet seen anyone in my neurologist’s office, so I was without medication. It was before my first CGRP trial, before Dr Mac and Dr Mitzi, right when I decided to taper off Cymbalta, before John got his social work job. It was probably one of the lowest points of my life.

In the entry I described my crazy, desperate run through the hospital parking lot after Dr P so ruthlessly attacked me. I’d forgotten that I’d been sobbing, tore away from J and  fell, scraping my hands and knees. Reading the descriptive prose I vividly remembered how worthless and hopeless I’d felt, and scared I had been. It’s hard to explain how much being rejected or misunderstood by a doctor feels like the end of the fucking world for someone with a chronic illness. I had literally nowhere to turn.

That helpless, hopeless feeling today morphed into an uneasy vulnerability. While I am much happier and more fulfilled now, with new friends, new activities, new jobs, I am unfortunately at a bit of a crossroads again with my medical care. J has a fantastic job now at our local state university, as a full time instructor, which is another reason for my increased satisfaction now as opposed to three years ago. However, one of the most attractive features of a good job, for me, is the health insurance. I had been on Ohio’s expanded Medicaid, which was life-saving, but limiting, so I was excited to be on regular private insurance again and am particularly grateful for it now that the NOTUS is trying to repeal all aspects of the ACA.

But there was a paperwork issue. J filled out all the many many pages required for our family to be covered, and it all went through fine. What he didn’t know is that almost immediately, he would have to fill out yet another spousal form for 2017, as he will have to every year. He was behind on checking emails, falling into the “ignorance is bliss” ravine that so many of us do when overwhelmed.

On January 1, my coverage ended. I haven’t had insurance since then. J is trying to get it worked out, but because the open enrollment period had ended, now the HR people need my Disability paperwork, my Medicaid and Medicare paperwork. Which J found and gave to them. And then he didn’t hear anything. He had to go to his dean for help in speeding it up. This week, he still hasn’t heard anything new about the progress. Bills are piling up. The uncertainty of not having coverage constantly makes me feel on edge. Scared.

I finally have an appointment with a new family doctor in March, Dr. C. My spoonie friend Julie, who is local, found him first, having read reviews that he’s excellent with complicated cases. But again, uncertainty. Fear. My wonderful, sweet pain specialist, Dr. Mitzi, who refused to conduct pill counts and seemed so concerned with me personally, has apparently caved in to the federal pressure and taken an extended leave of absence. She does have a nurse practitioner, Judy, but she is considerably less warm and makes me very nervous. They are trying to find a replacement for Mitzi, but I have read enough horror stories from people in my support groups that I know it’s a possibility the new doctor will be a strict asshole who will not want to keep prescribing to me. Uncertainty. Fear.

But. The pain clinic isn’t closing, and Dr. C seems very promising. Even without insurance, if worse comes to worse, I can pay cash. Things with Dr. M (the neuro) are going okay. I haven’t had to go to the ER for six weeks. J is doing well, the girls are doing well. I have my work for migraine.com, which is a dream come true, and BG Independent News, which is so great I would never have fathomed my involvement in such a thing. Working with journalists I’ve always admired, in a field I chose for myself twenty years ago. Lucky. I’m lucky.

I have to let this false fear wash away. I have so much that is good right now.


My girls on top of the Cape May lighthouse. X, Zo, & K, June 2014


The cast of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, December 2014


Zo & me after her first Nutcracker performance weekend, Dec 2014


Me at the Historical Center, where I frequently volunteered from 2014-2016


Part of our theatre family. I’ve been on the advisory board since early 2015.


Me & J at the Chamber of Commerce dinner with BGIN last month


My migraine.com profile. I will be going to a conference in Philadelphia in March!

Mix Tapes: The Buckle and The 8th Floor, 1997 (20 Years Later)

I am going to add to this entry now. When I first wrote it, I was thinking more about The Buckle and writing for a more general audience, even though I was already discussing really personal things. I just didn’t want to get into the details of my hospitalization that followed.

I just turned 44. It is now the twentieth anniversary of my week on the 8th floor of Toledo Hospital. The psych ward. I was there on my 24th birthday. Now, I want to write about it. It was an important part of becoming the person I am.

I recently got a 2002 RAV4 from my mother-in-law, and I have never loved a car so much. I have always wanted a small SUV, and she kept it well maintained, so even thought it has over 200,000 miles on it I feel it will continue for many more.

It also has a tape deck.

Earlier this year I bemoaned my lack of ability to play all my old mix tapes, which were like an art form for me. A friend had an extra boom box which she promptly delivered, and I imagined writing a new blog post for each new mix tape I rediscovered.  However, that never happened. The boom box sits in my room, with old dust and new dust.

A car tape deck though is a different matter. We all have to drive. I like to listen to music while I drive. I waited awhile and then, last week, I grabbed some tapes from my collection and popped the first one in, unlabeled, which turned out to be a taped-off-the-radio George Michael concert from the FAITH era and pieces of favorite albums (The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and sadly, Boston). The tape survived being flipped and re-wound, and played well, so I listened to a couple more. I posted on Facebook about them.

A friend (one of those FB friends I’ve never met in person) commented how much he was enjoying my Tape Updates, and I thought again about possible blog posts. Facebook seems much easier, less time consuming. There is also the privacy of those for whom I made the original mixes to consider. But this particular tape, which was made just for me, Mix Tape #4 according to its Facebook post order, definitely needs its own blog entry, as it represents such a personal and important crossroads for me, along with its sister mix, “The 8th Floor,” made soon afterward.

The mix is called “Buckle Songs”.


In February 1997, I quit my job at STAGE Stores Inc, which had been Uhlman’s Department Store until the sale / takeover. It was not nearly as enjoyable as Uhlman’s had been, particularly since, as an old fashioned Southern chain (one I learned during the presidential race of 2012 was owned by Mitt Romney), they told me I could no longer be manager of the Men’s Department. Because I’m a woman. And my fancy gold-plated five year badge with my full name and DEPARTMENT MANAGER on it was replaced by a cheap one with a sticker that said simply “E. Roberts.” No first names.

I’d also dated a co-worker with disastrous results (a man hired to work the Men’s Department!), and though he’d quit already, I had fallen hard for him and being back there was rough. I had graduated from college in December. I was ready to go. I spread applications to retail outlets all over BG and Toledo, because working retail was all I knew, and I liked it. Who called? The Buckle, a trendy clothing store at Franklin Park Mall, a 40 minute but very familiar drive north.

Because of my degree and experience I was hired to be a sales associate on track to become Assistant Manager. Tish, the manager, was very like other female bosses I’d had, though younger. She was sharply enthusiastic, and nerve-wracking. We were on commission. We were expected to “build on” sales, to not just help people find what they were looking for but also talk them into buying more. We were trained to look out for the types who were easiest to do this to. We got a 40% discount on clothes and could only wear what was purchased from the shop. My collection of Doc Marten boots and shoes, and Lucky Jeans, and thin, cheap, trendy tops would become monstrous. We’d all have “hold” piles and when paychecks were issued there was a long line to purchase. My sales were never high enough to begin the process of promotion to Assistant Manager, though I was a key holder, as I’d been at Uhlman’s / Stage. My migraines at this time were occasionally disruptive but I didn’t have to miss so much work that they were a real problem. I wouldn’t become chronic for ten more years, though I was definitely heavy episodic.

My relationships with my co-workers were pleasant, but I felt odd and out of place. Another key holder had dubbed The Buckle “The Meat Market of the Mall” as everyone who worked there was rather astonishingly good-looking, and easily classifiable into a “type.” My favorite co-worker was Jeff, my first flamboyantly gay friend, who was funny and sweet and danced like he was in a musical whenever “It’s Oh So Quiet” by Björk came on. There was the guy I had a crush on, Jake, who looked just like a Jake and was therefore not really my type at all. There was also Vinny, I think his name was, unless I just called him that in my head. He was sort of a combination of Keanu Reeves’ Ted and Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape, in retrospect. He had long shiny dark brown hair and loved the Wu-Tang Clan and tended toward the more “urban” line of Buckle clothes like JNCO jeans. The girls  were young and beautiful, from the one with long flowing wavy blonde hair to skinny, alternative types. [As I finished writing this the first time, I began to remember a more interesting and diverse staff (see update #1) but it is still true that everyone was exceptional in the looks department.] I had no idea where I fit into this schema. Since I’d been hired into management but stalled, I suspected I fit nowhere.

The best part of this job was, oddly, the music. We had lots of CD playlists to choose from, and they were all good, introducing me to some new things and re-affirming my love for The Beastie Boys, Björk, Liz Phair, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Beck. Some of them were more club oriented and therefore totally unfamiliar, and I was able to track down my favorites for the mix: “Whoever You Are” by Geggy Tah (“All I wanna do is to thank you, even though I don’t know who you are / You let me change lanes while I was driving in my car”) and “(C’mon Ride It) The Train” by Quad City DJs. When these songs came on we would dance and sing unabashedly. There were 1980s mixes as well, both alternative and dance styles. The Buckle, not a bar or wedding, was the first place I ever saw the “YMCA” dance being acted out. Working there felt more like working at a club, but instead of drinks people bought clothes, shoes, and belts. Despite the underlying competition of being on commission, we all got along pretty well, though the social and friendly environment was not extended for me outside the store as it probably was for the others, who were mostly one to five years younger. I was about to turn 24.

This was the time period of a major self-destructiveness on my part. My life, private and professional, was a mess. I had dumped Craig, my longterm on-and-off boyfriend, the previous fall for the last time to date Hazelwood, the guy from Stage, who  in turn had dumped me over the phone right after Christmas. The relationship with Craig had been a seven year tempest of fighting, reuniting, being unofficially engaged and then breaking up and getting back together, hanging out and hooking up without commitment, though every time, it felt like coming home. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and who to do it with. I thought I wanted to be with Craig, but I always thought that when we were apart. And I knew The Buckle wasn’t the right place for me but had no motivation to do anything about that. So I did stupid stuff like driving around the parking lot during lunch breaks with Vinny, in his car, blasting music while smoking weed and menthol cigarettes like that was our actual job before returning to work the rest of our shift. I let some stranger “pick me up” at the store, and dragged my friend and her boyfriend to his house, which was a glass and white monstrosity in northern Toledo at which he turned out to just be crashing. I remember there was weed spread all over the glass table in the living room, and I suspected there were other drugs tucked elsewhere. We smoked this weed. I went back by myself next time. The guy, Derrick, was a drifter with a temporary type job, but was actually pretty clean and cute and ended up not being a crazy asshole or rapist or killer; he didn’t slip Rohypnol in my drink, didn’t poison the food he made for me or get angry at my “everything but” reticence. In fact when I declined to see him again he seemed extremely crushed. I got lucky there. I also invited a random kid into my apartment when he knocked on the door looking for someone else, and smoked his weed too. I smoked so much weed belonging to strangers and near-strangers that it is astonishing I never stumbled upon any laced with anything. 

More emotionally significant than any of those encounters, I went to visit a good friend from college whom I’d always been desperately attracted to. It was mutual, but our timing had always been off and we had never dated. We consummated the five year intense flirtation very anti-climatically, but still I foolishly thought we would be together after that since we were both finally single. Which would mean we’d have lots of opportunities to improve on that score. But no. He said he considered it a logical progression of our friendship. And those migraines, he said. I don’t know if I can handle how sick you get. I told him that as far as I was concerned our “friendship” was over for good. To this day it remains my only true one night stand, which seems ironic to me because I loved him. I was devastated. My downward spiral got deeper and deeper.

I know this “risky behavior” is somewhat laughable. Even in the late 1990s it was known to everyone that marijuana is spectacularly safe. The promiscuity, though emotionally damaging, wasn’t physically dangerous as I only slept with Craig when he was in town and my “friend” and I knew both their histories and used protection. I didn’t snort cocaine off the glass table, I wasn’t shooting heroin. But for relatively cautious me, these risks felt huge, and I had the tantalizing spectre of my luck running out, the possibility always on my mind. I wanted it to run out. Because I was fucking miserable. And I needed a Deus ex Machina of an overdose or severe injury to derail me. I ended up derailing myself, but it was like a quiet, tipsy drive off a foggy road into a ditch rather than a plane crash.  Oh yeah, I drove home drunk from Toledo too, but that was a couple of months later, when I was working for Family Video in Sylvania. We used to go to a nearby dive bar afterward, where my newly tattooed young body was, it seemed, tantalizing to my middle-aged average male supervisors who enjoyed buying me jello shots. There, I was in transition, trying to re-build self esteem but letting myself be objectified, my tattoos not allowed to show at work, despite the “Adult” section behind a red curtain in the back. Family Video was the final frontier of my displacement and I’m glad I didn’t have to stay there too long with its 45 minute commute for $7.50 per devastatingly demoralizing hour. But the job was a necessary stop gap and again I was lucky that my remaining destructiveness didn’t cause permanent damage before my real life could begin that fall.

First, still at The Buckle as my birthday approached and a Back To School fashion show was being organized, I had to ask Jake to attend a party with me, have him say yes and then totally blow me off when the day came, after which I drove home in a thunderstorm sobbing and ended up in the cemetery, taking some pills and quitting The Buckle by phone from a hospital bed. I also arranged an interview at Family Video from the hospital.  Jake blowing me off was a last straw, the hiring of a new Assistant Manager another last straw, the memo we all received about a company issue called “Familyocity” where you cared about your co-workers too much to compete with them or fire them was the last last straw. Oh, and the fashion show that kind, handsome Brent put together that I was supposed to participate in with all the hot youth that I couldn’t actually bear to imagine. Me? Strutting down a catwalk in the middle of Franklin Park Mall? I was realizing NOPE fast. Brent was the only one to call the hospital to make sure I was okay. Brent, thank you. Jeff had already fled to work at Sufficient Grounds with Sarah, another favorite who was also someone I could have been friends with outside the Buckle world. I sincerely wish I had stayed in touch with both of them.

I actually visited two cemeteries that night after Jake blew me off. The first was where Craig’s first grade best friend was buried, though I couldn’t find his grave in the dark, even with the lightning’s occasional illumination. I moved on to the cemetery in town where I could find my own friend’s headstone with my eyes closed. She had died of leukemia five years before. I lay down on the wet grass, six feet above her forever 19 year old bones, wishing I had died instead, wanting to take her place, lightning streaking above through the swishing tree branches. The pouring rain obliterated my hysterical tears and I imagined disintegrating like the wicked witch, melting into the earth.  

When I remained stubbornly solid and conscious and waterlogged, desperation guided me to my parents’ house rather than my apartment which no longer felt like home, occupied as it was by my former best friend and her fiancé, a recent pairing which felt like a slap in the face. I only wanted to sleep for as long as possible, but did not take enough of the Fiorinal 3 capsules (a barbiturate/ codeine / caffeine compound to treat tension headaches) to even accomplish that. Six of the blue and yellow dolls only caused tremors and increased my misery and I was a bedraggled sopping fetal mess on the couch when Mom got up to get ready for her Sunday morning choir directing gig. 

In the emergency room, I talked to the psych person who was on call. I remember saying “My birthday is in a few days,” and I guess that along with the summary of my desperate disaster of a summer (entire year, really) convinced him that an inpatient stay might be called for, and I agreed, with what must have been relief. Take me out of my own hands, I imagine thinking.  No more choices. All of my decisions have been wrong. I imagine thinking on that Sunday morning, save my soul.

I maintain that my week-long stay in Toledo Hospital’s psychiatric unit was as interesting as any of the books or movies about the topic (thinking mainly of Girl, Interrupted and It’s Kind of a Funny Story). I kept a journal, and while I’d be hard pressed to find it right now, the writing and then the re-reading of it over the years caused it to be lodged much more permanently in my sieve of a memory than many events in my life.

Starting with being in the locked PIC ward (psychiatric intensive care) on suicide watch, everything being taken away from me, a small shatter proof double paned window. A bed. I was given Ativan and I slept. When I was transferred to the regular ward I had a room mate who named Nicole was a self-harming bipolar young woman, ugly black scabs on her skinny forearms. I remember her saying “You just gonna lie there all day? Come on, come to the common room with me.” And so I began to learn the mysterious, hyper-scheduled routine of the 8th floor, a hospital where you are not allowed to be in bed. A hospital with a smoking room, arts and crafts, exercise, group and individual therapy. 

The smoking room. At scheduled times we shuffled in, lit our cigarettes on special lighter things mounted on the wall, and chatted and gossiped. This is where real therapy took place, unsupervised. My dad brought me some Marlboro Light Menthols, my slow suicide of choice at that time. We lived for the smoking room. I learned that most of the other patients were bipolar and / or had attempted suicide. 


    • In art therapy I painted a plaster dinosaur and a serenity prayer plaque. Our days started with a “morning stretch” before breakfast. I was always cold. For the first two days I had no migraine medication.

    • There was a large lady of color named Eugenia who was always concerned about the pieces of pie she hoarded in the shared fridge. She often accused “the teens” (in a separate ward) of sneaking in and taking them.  I never learned why she was there, but I loved her, and she became fond enough of me that before I left she gave me some of her clothes that she had gained too much weight to wear.

     • Group therapy was totally  ineffective. We often had counselors who were far younger than most of us, and worse, seemed to know less than we did. The condescension was hard to take. During one session, without deciding it beforehand, we all asked complicated questions in order to fluster the young man leading the session. Then, a short and funny patient named Deb jumped up and wrote two letters on the dry erase board with lines under them: P (patients) and S (staff). With a flourish, after the counselor had gotten particularly frustrated, she placed one hashmark under the P. She was keeping score! I remember it going on for far longer than you might expect. Then of course we were all sent to our rooms and threatened with some sort of punishment but we were SO proud of ourselves. That was the first time I thought This is like a movie and I’m living it. 

     • In another group session a patient fell off her chair and had a seizure. After it was clear the counselor wasn’t going to act, Deb got up and assisted the person while the counselor finally picked up the phone in a panic and dialed for help. I had begun to rely on Deb’s confident presence, which is why it was sad for me when one day she was missing. “She freaked out last night,” someone confided. “She has to get shock treatment today.” I didn’t see Deb again.

     • The day of my birthday, I received a lot of phone calls. These were announced over a paging system, and then you would go out to the phone “booth” in the common room. One call caused me to be late for a smoke break. After the attendant escorting me unlocked the door, I rushed in with my Marlboro between my fingers. I felt all eyes on me, some curious, some resentful. “YOU sure are getting a lot of calls.” Someone said. “Well…” I hadn’t wanted to make a big deal of it. I lit my cigarette from the wall and said, “It’s my birthday.” There was a beat of silence and then the room erupted. “WHAT?!”  “Happy Birthday!”  “No way!” “Why didn’t you tell us?” The next think I knew, someone had started the birthday song and everyone was singing. And their voices were surprisingly melodic. You haven’t lived until you’ve had Happy Birthday sung to you by twelve smoking nutcases. It is one of my favorite memories, not just of that week, but my entire life.

My psychiatrist decided to change my medication from Effexor to Zoloft. He listened patiently to everything I had been going through. When I mentioned something about my endometriosis (for which I’d had two surgeries and was taking a medication to put me into a false menopause), he inquired about my fertility. I told him I didn’t expect to be able to have children, that my first gynecologist had encouraged me to put off or skip college in order to have a baby as soon as possible. The psychiatrist was horrified. I felt so validated by that. He mentioned a therapist he wanted me to see, a psychologist who was also an RN named Virginia. I continued seeing her for years. She is the best therapist I have ever had and Dr. Mac (current psychologist) reminds me of her.

The mix I made right after getting out of the hospital is a nearly laughably typical late nineties depression mix with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Fiona Apple, Natalie Merchant, Depeche Mode, and the Cranberries. It took a number of months to put my shattered self back together. I found a tiny apartment in which I could live by myself with a huge skylight instead of windows; it was above a print shop which made it smell like ink. The smell didn’t bother me; in fact I loved it. Even today when I walk downtown past Wizard Graphics and the ink scent hits me, it fills me with calm. I also applied for a job at Grounds For Thought at my mother’s insistence, a coffee shop / used bookstore a block away from my new apartment, even though I didn’t feel cool enough to set foot in it, much less work there. But I was hired. The Buckle (a symbol for the more important events of graduating from college, being dumped and losing Craig) had broken me, and as the pieces started to fit back together, I became the me I would be for the rest of my life. I was poised on the edge of meeting John and all the people who would matter in the years to come. When I was promoted to full time Night Manager at Grounds in October of ’97  I was able to finally quit Family Video, where they were quietly disapproving and suspicious of my “moonlighting” at a coffee shop. I worked at Grounds for almost a decade, through meeting and dating John, getting married, getting pregnant and having X, and going chronic.


My “Buckle Songs” mix contains mostly the happy, dancy music that made us squeal and start dancing in place no matter what we were doing when the songs came on. Some of the songs reflect my frenetic despair. There are a few songs from Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet, which was important to me at the time. It started with Urge Overkill’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” from Pulp Fiction and ended with “Make It Home” by Julianna Hatfield, which had been in the Christmas My So-Called Life episode when Rickie was homeless. As I found more songs from our actual Buckle playlists I replaced throw-away songs with more authentic ones, so it was edited a few times over the next year, much like my actual evolving life. I got more tattoos. I grew up.


**Update: While listening to the Buckle mix while driving everyone to school (at three different times), a memory suddenly came back to me of another co-worker I’d totally forgotten about, a beautiful young woman of color who vividly called out the Presidents of the U.S.A. regarding the real meaning of their song “Peaches” and claimed joyfully that she was going to wear a t-shirt saying “KILL WHITEY” to get out of her impending jury duty.  I realized that the Buckle staff were much more diverse than I initially remembered, though undeniably everyone was very attractive. My friend Sarah, whom I’m recalling a little more clearly now, was a short, adorable ginger with a nose ring; not waify and blonde or heroin chic. This was the most unique group of people I ever worked with, which I sought to re-create when I began hiring at Grounds. And I still say I had the best Grounds Crew there ever was and ever will be again. 

***Update #2: The Buckle mix also seems to be telling me to hold on and be patient; that my real life, and even John, were right around the corner.

****Update #3: For one week near the end of summer, the girls attend Hogwarts camp. Last year while walking them through Diagon Alley, I heard a voice exclaim “Elizabeth?? Oh my gosh!!” She was in costume as a professor and head of house, and to be honest I still don’t really remember her, but she had been a co-worker of mine at The Buckle, 19 years before. “How ARE you? I married Todd, you know, the other keyholder? Our two kids are here. Are these yours?” Todd was the one who coined “Meat Market of the Mall.” I couldn’t believe this woman remembered me so clearly when I felt like such a lame imposter while working there. Their older son ended up being placed in X and Zo’s house. He and X got along SO WELL. They are both funny and random, and cute, and I loved watching them together last year and this year, 11 and 12 years old with no idea of their parents’ inauspicious joint past. Their friendship feels like the best kind of closure, the children being gemstones with their genesis in the summer of my rock bottom.

We Are Standing on the Edge…

I just basically want everyone to know that my family and I will be okay. Everyone has things that go wrong. Everyone gets sick. Everyone has trouble now and then with government red tape. People change jobs. All of it is possible to deal with and all of it is way better than losing a child, or a spouse. Or losing your home, or starving. Even though we are struggling financially (understatement) we have support which allows us to eat, and live, and even keep the girls enrolled in their activities.

X got a small role in our Youth Theatre group’s fall production, a Dr Seuss twist on Romeo and Juliet. It’s probably the smallest role in the cast, an unnamed Capulet (Capitulate, in this version) Servant, but she doesn’t care at all. She’s just happy to be involved. In this, I could learn a lot from her.

My appointment with my pain specialist also went well. 

Dealing with Medicare and Medicaid today was a total failure, but that isn’t surprising. Medicare said Medicaid would drop me if I un-enrolled from Medicare, and Medicaid said they couldn’t help me at all, that “you have to understand ma’am, the two programs are completely separate” and didn’t seem to understand at all what I was talking about. I will need to go in person to my local office. When anything providing my medical support starts to break down, I completely freak, so J said he would be the one to go into the office since he is much less likely to break down sobbing trying to explain the situation. Unfortunately my wonderful pain therapist doesn’t take Medicare and won’t see me until the situation is resolved, which was a disappointment to me to say the least. I have little hope that all this bullshit will be fixed by Monday, so I will have to cancel that appointment; Dr Mac suggested someone else which I don’t want to do and also broke my heart a little. But still. This is a temporary setback.

J is applying for jobs. I got my CGRP injection today and am very lucky to be involved in that study which is something I never take for granted and need to remember is a major positive in my life. There are other positives as well: my volunteer work at the historical center, participating in the Youth Theatre Advisory Board, and my Etsy shop, Wind In The Door, which is continuing to provide me with satisfaction and a little bit of extra money.

The edges of things don’t always lead to pits of despair. If you can find the easier-to-descend slope, or the previously-hidden stairway, you can lead your children out of the harsh wind to a valley of lush green and calm. 

And in the meantime, there is always hope.

And just right now an example of the magic J and I share, and why I believe we will always be O.K. : I sent him the above video just as he sent me the below. 

I feel my luck could change.



Yesterday’s post was written in the throes of depression and fear. What I should never have said is that I lack friends. Yes, I’m disappointed to have recently lost some of the closeness I’ve felt in some significant relationships, but honestly I have more friends, far and wide, in person and online, than I probably deserve.  I realized that in stating I feel friendless I maligned those very important people who support me in every way they can. To those people, THANK YOU.  I apologize for hyperbolizing based on fear. I love you all. 

 New friend Colby with my daughters at Hogwarts Camp

But You Won’t.

I’ve been absent. I don’t really know what to say about it. While my participation in the CGRP Study has been amazing, and I have longer pain-free periods, somehow I end up in the ER more often. Everything in my life is changing. J had to resign from his job over unfair labor practices and while I believe he has a good plan for finding something new, I’m terrified. I don’t want to rely on others anymore for the things we need. I want my daughters to feel safe and secure. My baby is about to start first grade, a milestone which was extremely hard for me when I went through it with her older sister. Soon, I turn 42. I seem to be losing friends, or at least losing the closeness I shared with those friends, faster than I can make new ones. Who am I kidding? There are no new friends on the horizon for me.

 I want to feel motivated. I am still volunteering at the museum, working on my Etsy shop (www.Etsy.com/shop/WindInTheDoor)  and a member of our Youth Theatre advisory board, all activities I find worthwhile and rewarding. I thought J and I were going to go back to school (together) but scrapped that idea when a week of playing various ghosts at Hogwarts Camp and then a theatre conference landed me in the ER, a migraine from which I still haven’t fully recovered. Attending classes and studying doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of mollyfing Medusa. So I am still collecting meager SSI and have no idea when I’ll be able to work again. The Etsy shop is doing okay, especially for having been open only 6 months, but I wish it would do better so I could feel I’m contributing something.  I am doing everything right with the shop, and am continuing to try to do it better, but right now everything feels hopeless. 

The kids are growing up. The kittens both died. The house looks like a bomb hit it. There’s no way I’m making it to the County Fair this year. I’m having a hard time getting X interested in practicing her monologue for the fall play which means she might not get a part and will be beyond devastated. Zo’s behavior is getting tougher to deal with as she can’t handle her own negative feelings without trying to hurt others emotionally and her extremely sensitive sister exacerbates that issue. J doesn’t have a job. I can’t have a job. I can’t even get out of bed right now.  

Welcome back, LadyMigraine. You suck.