My Friendship with a Star. Sort of.

Tonight, the TNT drama Public Morals makes its television debut. Created by Ed Burns and produced by Steven Spielberg, the series spotlights Irish-American cops in New York City trying to deal with crooks both petty and major, with the focus on NYPD’s head of the Public Morals Division, Terry Muldoon, and the various people that report to him and the people he reports to.

One of the subplots focuses on an Irish mobster, played by Timothy Hutton, who’s an all-around douchebag. His son, Sean, joins Terry’s efforts to shut down organized crime as a way to spite said douchebag father. Sean is played by Austin Stowell, whom you may know as the star of such family-friendly fare as Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, Secret Life of the American Teenager, and some movie with Liam Hemsworth where he played a Vietnam vet desperate to get his girlfriend back. This fall, he’s starring as the central “Private Ryan”-esque character Tom Hanks is working to save in the Steven Spielberg directed, Coen Brothers written Bridge of Spies. The guy is on a rocketship to stardom, and he’s even earned his own celebrity couple portmanteau (“Stobrev”). 

I went to theater school with him. I’ve known him for twelve years.

I am THRILLED for him, and simultaneously, it’s the weirdest feeling ever. I was at the gym the other day reading the most recent issue of Vanity Fair, and Austin was featured in one of those “People to Know” things and I barely recognized him. When I realized that it was Austin, I almost fell off my elliptical and then proceeded to text my friend Mal oh no big deal just Austin in Vanity Fair!!

I know a lot of famous people! Why is it that this particular famous person that I knew way back when makes me freak the hell out?

I will not proclaim to say that I know Austin very well anymore. But at one point, we were good friends. And given all of the publicity about him right now, I figured I’d share my story of the Austin I knew, before he got all “cool” and stuff. And this isn’t going to be a blog that spills a ton of juicy dirt (not that there is any dirt to spill), so if that’s what you’re looking for, get out now!

I first met Austin in the summer of 2003 during college orientation. I ended up rooming with a girl named Leeanna, whom I automatically adored (and still adore to this day – Hi Lee! Happy birthday, Harper!). The very first time I saw Austin in the orientation group, I instantly thought – WOOF. I mean he’s good looking to the point that I got uncomfortable looking at him for too long. And you all know that pretty boys are my kryptonite. But I quickly came to learn that beyond his appearance was a super good guy. When I left, he gave me a big hug and told me how glad he was to have met me, and that he couldn’t wait to get started in the fall.

That fall, when I saw Austin on the first day of class, he picked me up in a giant bear hug (which was NOT an easy thing to do, considering I was about 200 pounds at this point) and from that point on we were friends. Not BEST friends, but friends. I learned about his backstory, which is now gracing the pages of the aforementioned Vanity Fair – he started out as an athlete, and when an injury sidelined him from ever playing professionally in sports, he was urged to try out for some plays in high school. The acting bug bit, and he auditioned for the conservatory program at UConn and got in.

The thing that stuck out to me during those years at UConn about Austin was his laser focus. Any time he got a part or a scene to perform, he hammered away at it until it was correct. He was like Tom Cruise, only not terrifying. Even if it was something he wasn’t necessarily good at right from the off, he worked tirelessly to improve himself. For three years I watched him work and I wanted to do a scene with him, but nothing really came up. I ended up doing a lot of scenes with the same few people, not that I minded! I got my first stage kiss (Hi Teddy!), and doing the same scenes with the same people forged a lot of intimacy and growth (Hi Joe! I want some Alcreamist!). But I’ll never forget the one day where I had to do scene work in front of the entire class and it ended up getting pretty emotional, and Austin raised his hand at the end and told me “I think this was very important, because you showed the entire class how beautiful you are, and you are a beautiful girl, inside and out, and you need to own that.” When a goodlooking guy tells you you’re beautiful when you’re 18 years old and horrendously insecure and fat? You spend the rest of the year feeling like this –

The second semester of junior year was the time that I looked forward to the most. That was the semester we got to do Shakespeare, and I was dying to do some pretty epic scenes. One of our first projects as a group was to split up into two separate sections. Half of us would do the same scene from Romeo and Juliet, and half of us would do the same with The Tempest, in order to illustrate how different people can do different line readings. I got paired up with Austin, and I about died inside.

We immediately decided that since we were both pretty physical actors our scene was going to be very straightforward and full of physicality. Austin decided that he wanted to move around a lot of blocks (in the scene, Ferdinand is doing hard labor at the command of Miranda’s father and ends up engaged to Miranda at the end) and I made the choice to have Miranda be much more forceful and funny.

Halfway through our first run-through of the scene, our director, Helene Kvale, called out “Austin! Take your shirt off!”

We have talked about how insanely virginal I was during college, so you can imagine my reaction when Austin, in the middle of his impassioned “Admired Miranda” speech, ripped off his shirt and used it to wipe his face. I remember trying to keep my face organized and calm while on the inside I was like –

Our scene was passionate, funny, and adorable, and we got high marks for it in the mid-semester evaluations.

My favorite Austin Stowell story as it relates to theater happened the next year in a production of Shakespeare in Hollywood, a parody of the Max Reinhardt directed film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was cast as gossip columnist Louella Parsons (which allowed me to deploy a HILARIOUS mid-Atlantic accent) and Austin was cast as Daryl, the super nerdy “Yes man” to Reinhardt. He’s basically the “Urkel” of the play, so when Austin got called back for it, I was like “….this will either be terrible, or AMAZING.” I was in the room when Austin did his callback, and I knew immediately he nailed it.

Now, the big plot point of the show is that Oberon and Puck have landed in the world of Hollywood, magic flower in hand, and everyone gets duped into falling in love with everyone else. So….I think you know where this is going. Louella gets the flower, sees Daryl from across the room, and proceeds to pin him up against a piano and mouth-assault him while an entire scene happens in the foreground. When I read that portion of the script, I did this.

I mean, come on. I had spent the first three years of college getting cast as the fat butch girl, and now I got to play a glamourpuss that makes out with a hot guy (let’s just ignore the fact that in the script it’s against his will)? GOD HATH BLESSED ME.

The day we had to do the scene, I pulled Austin aside and I asked him “how much is too much?” Austin laughed, handed me some lip balm, and said “do whatever you want to me.” That’s the kind of guy he is.  So I literally threw him over the piano and at one point I had him on the floor. We basically went at it until the director told us to take it down a notch. It was awesome, and I laughed the entire time, and Austin had zero complaints. (Also, this was the show my best college girlfriends smuggled a bunch of ponies into and they got drunk before the curtain went up, and they treated the entire thing like an NSYNC concert. It was awesome.)

Now, I see Austin in big budget dramas and high profile serious movies and I’m just filled with a sense of pride and also love for a guy that just works so damn hard and also deserves every bit of success he gets. The last day of college, Austin gave me a giant hug, told me how glad he was to have met me, and that “We’ll see each other soon.” That’s the last time I saw him. He moved to LA and through luck and hard work scored an agent and he is where he is today. And I’m…typing these words in my Manchester, CT, kitchen while kale is slowly braising on my stovetop. Life takes us in different directions than we planned. But I’m happy. And I know Austin is, too.

The other day, he was on The Today Show, and I could tell from just the three minutes he had in his interview that he hasn’t changed. He’s still the gregarious, fun-loving, good-hearted person I knew at UConn all those years ago. So here’s to you, Austin “Freaking” Stowell, and if you find yourself in CT at any point soon, I owe you a massive hug. I can’t think of a person more deserving of this boatload of success than you are.

Also, Nina Dobrev? Take care of our guy. 

ally

Addictions: How I Got Off The Internet, Kind of, and So Can You!

My name is Ally Auriemma and I am addicted to my phone. I’m in active recovery, but I’m still trying to figure out this new relationship with a piece of technology that has taken over my life.

Last year, when ESPN did the Geno Project, there was a cute moment where my Dad suddenly picked his phone up and waved it in front of the camera. “These stupid things,” he said, “are the ruin of civilization.” He’s not wrong.

I didn’t get a phone with texting capabilities until I was 23, which sounds insane now, considering so many people give their toddlers iPad Minis, but keep in mind this was 2008 when things were simpler and Lady GaGa hadn’t worn her meat dress yet. At the time, I had no use for texting or even for a phone with Internet access. I was perfectly fine with my Motorola Razr, in beautiful silver and blue, with Kenny Chesney’s “Summertime” as my ringtone. It did what I needed it to do – when my Mom called, it rang, and when I picked up, I could hear her. Really, when you’re 23 years old and a relentless introvert, the only person calling you is your mom. Plus, this was the point in time when every number on your phone corresponded to like ten letters, so you had to hold your thumb down until it reached the precise letter you were trying to use. I had zero patience for that. Instead of texting my way through college, I was writing fan fiction in which I used Liv Tyler as an avatar for an original vampire character who fought werewolves. (I’ll get into THAT in a later post.)

I also made fun of people who were addicted their phones. Friends of mine who had Blackberries (or as we called them, “Crackberries”) swore by how it made text messaging so fun and easy, and also the INTERNET was on the PHONE! This is also a good time to tell you that at this point in time, I did not have Twitter, and Instagram wasn’t a thing yet. I was taking pictures with my giant Canon camera, not my cell phone. I spent most of my free time reading, writing, and IMing people. But what’s interesting is I’ve started to pick up the patterns of what I did during the days of AIM and Trillian in my modern texting self – I used to wait for people to come online so I could talk to them. I was like that girl in Takashi Miike’s Audition staring at her phone until it rang. I just didn’t have the freaky dismembered guy in the burlap sack.

Then, I got a Blackberry for my 23rd birthday after my Motorola Razr shit the bed. I had dropped it one too many times and Kenny Chesney started to sound like he was singing through a didgeridoo. The minute I popped that Blackberry Pearl out of its case and beheld its sleek, red packaging and easy to use keyboard, I was a goner. I’ve never done drugs, but I’m pretty sure I got high off that phone.

I immediately texted my friend Dave. Dude, I got a Blackberry. I’m so screwed.

LOL, he wrote back. Yes, you are!

My addiction started off simple – again, this was pre-Twitter, so I wasn’t necessarily using my phone for anything obsessive. I just loved the novelty of having the Internet in my pocket, and sometimes even music on Pandora! And of course, keeping in touch with my friends was the biggest part of the whole thing. After college, several of my close friends moved away, so there weren’t a lot of people living near me. Texting became my way of staying close when everyone got busy.

That first Blackberry stayed with me the entire time I lived in New York, and it was the phone I used to text my friends to tell them I was coming back home. I ended up losing it on a jog in Virginia, which SUCKED, but I was thankfully still on a warranty and got a new one without paying much out of pocket. I stayed true to my Blackberry for four years, and ended up switching to a Bold (with touch screen AND keyboard, ooh la la!) in 2011.

After my first year of graduate school, I realized that my beloved Blackberry, while amazing and affording me all of the things I needed in a phone, wasn’t exactly getting the job done when it came to my teaching. For some reason, my university email wasn’t connecting on my phone and as a result I was getting student emails way too late. I was having problems communicating with my students on tight deadlines when they needed my assistance, and as a result I probably screwed them out of precious advice. So I started to consider making the jump to an iPhone, which I knew had a better emailing platform for my university address.

I got my iPhone in July of 2012. If the Blackberry was like getting high, the iPhone was like black tar heroin. I immediately fell into a sinkhole of apps, texting, Instagramming, Pinterest-ing, Tweeting, and Facebooking like you had never seen. And texting? Forget it. Unlimited texting meant that I could text EVERYONE, all the TIME, NO MATTER WHAT. And I could send PICTURES through text?! Strap on a belt and smack me in the arm and HIT ME UP SOME MORE!

It is not a surprise that my ADD got worse over the past three years, and my relationships went in the toilet. I became a social media fiend. You name it, I retweeted it or liked it or favorited it. I would stay in bed until all hours of the day, just texting people and reading Facebook feeds. When my anxiety got really bad, I avoided human contact and stared into my phone for hours and hours on end. When the #BlackLivesMatter movement began last August, I would stay up until 2 in the morning reading my Twitter feed and feeling a giant pit of anxiety in my stomach; my friends would show concern for how much I cared and I would get furious at them. People would tell me “Maybe get off the Internet for a second” and I would shut down and cry. I would text people over and over and over again about the dumbest shit, just to make myself heard.

Then, last year, a friend of mine from high school died by suicide. She had texted me a month before, asking me when she was going to see me again. I never answered it, and I’ve beaten myself up every single day for an entire year for not answering that text message. Perhaps that’s why I spent the past year slowly sinking into a whirlpool of social media that I’m just now starting to claw my way out of. For me, social media was my way of saying “I’M HERE.” (It all goes back to that quest for visibility and validation, am I right?)

At certain points, to a girl with horrendous anxiety and depression issues, the Internet and people at the other end of a text message can be all you have. To the point where you forget that other people are people, too.

I was finally called out about this last summer by someone I truly loved, and it devastated me. I hadn’t realized that in my burning desire to look at other people’s lives, I was neglecting my own. I promised I would be better. But I didn’t get better in time.

At the beginning of this summer, I was so sad and crushed and devastated that I immediately began to text EVERYONE I knew about random shit. I’m talking five, six, seven texts in a row, and when people didn’t respond I assumed they hated me. I Instagrammed, Facebooked, and Tweeted my ass off, and in doing so I said a ton of shit I regret. I lost a lot of friends and probably lost the respect of people I know. It wasn’t until I confessed all of this to a therapist that she said the magic words that made my runaway brain screech to a halt.

“Ally, I think you’re replacing one addiction with another.”

My addiction to food became my addiction to external validation, social media, and simply, other people. And of course we all know that hell is other people.

It’s so easy to see now. It’s so hard to realize that I have an addictive personality that keeps magnetizing horrible patterns like this.

So back in June, I made a major decision. I stopped posting on Facebook and Twitter and deleted those apps from my phone. I blocked people. I hid people. I told people I just needed a break to heal and received an outpouring of love. I stopped texting people. I called people and actually heard their voices. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years. I went to the movies. I went to the beach. I read books. And I learned some very valuable lessons.

Just because people don’t text you back right away, it doesn’t mean they hate you. I’m the person who, if you don’t text me back right away, I automatically assume you’re mad at me. You don’t know what other people are doing with their lives. Maybe they’re having issues with their phone. Maybe their phone capabilities aren’t the same as yours. Maybe they’re, you know, doing shit that doesn’t involve their phone and you are driving them nuts. I went to visit one of my best friends in the world last week and I mentioned that I had texted her a few times the night before, and she responded (in a very kind way) “Ally, I was going to see you today anyway. When I’m at home at night, I’m not looking at my phone. I’m hanging out with (her partner) and the animals. Whatever you said to me, it could wait until I actually saw you.” Which of course made me feel insanely guilty, but then a little voice in my head piped up and said “This is good. Remember this feeling. Maybe you shouldn’t be on your phone all the time.” So I’ve started to text people things like Hey, I’m bothering you, please let me know and I’ll leave you alone. Sometimes you aren’t bothering anyone and you’re just creating wild stories in your head. But sometimes, you are bothering people!

Put the goddamn phone down. I went on vacation last week to one of my favorite places in the entire world, and for the entire week I left my phone at the house whenever we went somewhere as a family or we went down to the beach. One, because I didn’t want to get sand in in the crevices of my new iPhone 6S, but also because I didn’t want to spend my time at the best place on earth sucked into Instagram when my nephews wanted to bury my feet in sand or run around in circles slurping on Spider-Man popsicles. I also read three books while I was away – I STRONGLY recommend The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.

Instagram and Facebook are not the arbiter of real life. “They liked that person’s photo and they didn’t like mine. So obviously they hate me.” This is dumb. Please stop thinking like this. Not everyone is going to like every single thing that you post. (Although some people do, and that’s fine!) About four years ago, I got a lot of new friends with my transition to graduate school, and I made it my mission to impress them. I did all the right things, posted all the right images, and curated my online presence to within an inch of its life. They loved it, but it wasn’t real. Then, things got more real and I started being more honest, and guess what? Some of them left, but some of them stayed and became even closer to me because I had decided to actually show my true self. And that’s how I knew which ones were fair weather and which ones were the real deal. Besides, unless they block you or something, assume that they are keeping you around for a reason. Also, the amount of filters people put on pictures should be enough to assure you that everyone is bullshitting everyone else. The popular ones are just the best bullshitters. I’d rather be real, thanks.

Your relationship should not be conducted on social media. Oh my god, STOP DOING THIS. There are so many studies that PROVE that people who turn their social media pages into an obsessive love poem about their partner are actually in much shittier relationships than they let on. It’s similar to the studies people have done about what Stanford University calls the Duck Syndrome – how ducks look like they’re placidly gliding across the water but they’re actually frantically paddling underneath. We can construct vast imaginations on social media, to the point where we orchestrate grand lies about our lives. Either be honest, or just don’t post about it. Plus, I have seen a LOT of friends word vomit about their relationships all over social media and then BOOM – they’re divorced. So maybe just keep that shit to yourself. Unless it’s your anniversary. Then go nuts.

So, how can you too stop being so obsessed about social media? Some quick tips.

  1. Take at least an hour every day and spend it away from social media. This can be when you visit the gym, or when you’re diving into a really good book, or you can draw a picture, or you can talk to your family. With your mouth and your voice. I know, weird, right? Make this activity something fun and something you really enjoy. I like to go for long walks without my phone, or I do yoga. As you get better at this, spend more and more time away from your phone. (This normally applies to the weekends, or the afternoons when you get out of work and you want to just spend time unplugged.)
  2. Think to yourself “do I really have to share EVERYTHING I find with this person/these people?” Usually the answer is no. You don’t have to bombard someone with information all of the time. They’ll grow tired of it, and of you. Just let someone live. And in turn, you can live too.
  3. Don’t freak out if someone didn’t like a post or like your photos. You don’t know how many people they follow! It probably got swallowed up.

I think as we get more and more accustomed to having the world at our fingertips, the less and less comfortable we get with being truly alone. So we hold on to anything that will connect us to the outside world. As a result, we don’t really get accustomed to knowing ourselves. And the final result of that situation is – we never really get a chance to fall in love with ourselves. We’re so busy getting infatuated with things outside of our own souls, we forget that the real love story should be with ourselves first.

I’m remembering who I am. And I didn’t need an app.

ally

The Semi-Immaculate Conception. 

August, 2007. 

“I need to go to the hospital.”

My mom stopped on her way back up the stairs. She looked at me, sprawled on the couch, holding my ears in pain. I had been diagnosed with mono two weeks prior, and I was positive there were complications. My throat was so sore I could barely breathe, there was a large abscess sticking out of my neck, and a shooting pain was working my way up into my jaw and inner ear. My face was so swollen I couldn’t open my mouth all the way, and for the entire vacation we were on, I could barely eat anything but smoothies and mushed up bananas. I had lost 15 pounds and standing for long periods at a time was impossible due to my dehydration. Part of me was REAL happy about that weight loss. Yay, eating disorders! </sarcasm>

“Please, Mom,” I begged. “I just want to get better.”

My mom came back down the stairs and sat down next to me. Her hand went into my hair and I was immediately transported to the time in high school when I ate too much Halloween candy and puked all over the bathroom floor. “Okay. Let’s go. But I think I’ll have Jenna come with us, too.” 

So off we went to the Cape May Hospital. We had been down in Avalon, New Jersey, for about a week and a half, and my amazing vacation in my favorite place on earth had been shot to hell by my sickness. I got diagnosed right after I finished a production of Kiss Me, Kate, in which I had been thrown around and jostled by several people as part of the stage action. So you can imagine my panic when I realized later that any of those carefully constructed moves could have resulted in a ruptured spleen. 

My sister assured me that everything would be fine, and she even braided my hair on the way to the hospital , but her tone changed when we walked into the waiting room at the Prompt Care Center. Sitting in hard backed plastic chairs was a woman with a broken foot, a man who insisted on playing the tambourine he had inexplicably brought with him, and a man who had probably been wheeled in from prison. (I’m not being flippant – he had on a prison uniform.) My sister is the one who drove me to the urgent care center that diagnosed me with mono in the first place, after she literally had to shove clothing on me because I was too weak to move my arms. She wasn’t necessarily thrilled about it; at one point she had called my mother saying “someone needs to put her in a shower and it is NOT going to be me!”

At this point of my illness I was so delirious from thirst and hunger that I didn’t care that we were in the middle of a lost season of American Horror Story. I just wanted to not look like the Elephant Man and I wanted to be able to eat a sandwich without feeling like I was getting force fed knives. 

After changing into a hospital gown, they had me pee into a cup and a very kind nurse proceeded to stab the hell out of my arm with an IV. “You have very tiny veins” she remarked cheerfully while I gripped the sides of the bed and gritted my teeth. After she had finally gotten a vein and left the room, my mom came up to me and held my hand. “It’s okay to cry,” she said. So I did. I’m the worst when it comes to being sick. I just want to lay there and wish for death. 

The doctor then came in, felt my neck, and immediately told me “you have peritonsilar cellulitis, an infection in the throat next to the tonsils. We’ll just test you for strep and then get you some steroids that should cure the swelling.”

“But I don’t have strep. I got tested for strep. I have mono!” Granted, my throat was so clogged with infection this probably sounded like “Buh ha don’t ha strep, ah ha’ modo.”

“I know, but we still have to check.” His eyes were kind, but this was a man on the go. 

When he left the room, my sister came up to me and looked into my mouth. “You know when a Tampon goes into the toilet and it blooms like a flower? Your throat looks like that.”

I stared at her, while my mom roared with laughter. “MY THROAT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A USED TAMPON,” I shrieked, causing a candy striper walking  by to do a double take. 

“I’m just going by what I’m seeing!” Jenna snapped, and then slumped back into her chair. She looked over at my mom. “Is Coldstone going to be open when we leave?” 

The nurse re-entered the room before my mom could respond. “Well, we can’t give you the medicine yet! There was a positive reading on your urine sample.”

Immediately my mom piped up. “Oh! Did it have a lot of proteins?” My mom is Web MD when it comes to ailments. Her constant remedy for everything is an Advil or a workout.

The nurse laughed, and said “No. It was positive for pregnancy.”

It should probably be stated now that at this point in my life, I was 21, and a total virgin. I was a virgin until I was well into my 20s and the process of losing my V-card was a huge production number because every single person I know treated me like a damn glass snowflake when they found out I hadn’t punched my ticket on the Sex Express. “But you have to go have sex right now or else you’ll be miserable!” one friend told me. (Wrong.) “Guys hate virgins!” another one advised. (Also wrong.) “Don’t worry if you’re bad at it at first!” another assured me. (WRONG. WHAT WHAT. I mean I was a virgin but I wasn’t a moron. I had done my homework. And by “homework” I mean “watched a lot of porn and tried to figure out what aspects were physically possible.” But I have gotten rave reviews so far. Please stop reading, Dad.)

This virginity wasn’t all by choice. I went to an all girls school, so that robbed me of a few opportunities to get busy. (Granted I was also happier playing online RPGs than going out to dances, but still.) 

There were a couple of opportunities to lose my V-card in college but I was very timid and suffering from a lot of body image issues so I never really put myself in that position. Plus, most of my drama class was hooking up with each other, so I was the one on the outside meekly saying “are you SURE making out with him is a good idea?”

Plus, half of my friends in college were sexually assaulted or raped. That put me off of the party scene for a while out of legit fear for my safety. One of the campus walkways at UConn is colloquially referred to as the Rape Trail. So….there you go. 

I tell this to you in order for you to understand the sheer shock and horror coursing through my body when I was told that I was possibly carrying some sort of demon spawn that had ninja-crawled into my vagina when I wasn’t looking. For a split second, the air was sucked out of the room. My mom gave a little howl of surprise, and my sister snapped up in her seat. I raised myself up on my elbows, looked at the nurse right in the eye, and declared “There is no fucking way, unless I’m carrying the body of Christ.”

She laughed, but my brain was on fire. How was this possible? What in the name of God could cause this to happen? I just wanted to get my fluids and steroids and now I’m possibly carrying some sort of hell baby inside of me? I was 21! I was planning to move to New York! I was starting a job at J.Crew! I had just reached my goal weight! EVERYTHING IS AWFUL. 

Now, a normal person would say “Um, Ally, false positive.” But at this point of my life I had zero coping mechanisms for my anxiety, so when the nurse left the room after taking my blood, I sat back on the pillows and cried. “I don’t want to be pregnant,” I wailed, while my mom laughed hysterically and my sister proceeded to ask me that since she was newly engaged, could she just steal my kid? I then proceeded to sob to my mom “I swear I’m not pregnant, I’ve never done anything ever!” To which she responded “Oh, I know.” Thanks Mom. 

Obviously the test came back negative, I was pumped with steroids and liquids and was sent home a happy camper. My swellings went down in 24 hours and the “Ally was pregnant for ten minutes” story has been batted around at family dinners to this day. 

My point in telling this story is a simple one:

Even things with obvious conclusions can cause us to freak out. There was literally no biological way I was pregnant, but I still freaked out as hard as any teen character on an 80s TV show during a Very Special Episode. I still have my moments, but I am learning to not jump to conclusions. 

My feelings on babies and pregnancy have changed as well. My sister has two babies now, and we still joke about that day in the hospital. I can’t wait to have some of my own some day. But I think that’s the thing about getting older. You start to realize what you want and how to go about getting it. I wish I could tell the terrified virgin me of 2007 “Chill out. You’re going to be fine. And keep figuring yourself out sexually. It will pay off big time. I promise. You just have to wait a little bit.”

Everything works out the way it’s supposed to. Even if it does mean you think you’re pregnant for ten minutes. 

Everything is going to be fine. 
Ally

On being Happy.

I remember sobbing hysterically in the middle of the soccer field, while the blonde girl in front of me tried to figure out why I was so upset. We had gotten into a fight, and I can’t for the life of me remember what it was about. But I remember feeling like my ten year old heart was breaking out of me and leaking onto the grass of Kennedy Field.

“I just want you to like me,” I managed to eke out, grubbing my tears out of my eyes with a grass-stained hand. The girl looked at me incredulously. “Alysa, you are one of my best friends!”

“Really? I never knew that!” I said, equally disbelieving, choking back more tears. I just couldn’t believe it. It was the best thing I could have ever hoped for. I had wanted this girl to like me for so long, and she did. She had always liked me. I just had never allowed myself to see it.

Now, at nearly 30 years old, I find myself tearing up about that broken little girl who just desperately wanted to be loved – to be seen – because she didn’t really like herself all that much.

When I was a little girl, I constantly felt alone. I had/have wonderful parents, great siblings, and pretty good friends. But I still felt very much alone. A lot of that was my choice – while my family played games and talked in the living room on vacations, I would go upstairs and read by myself. I fell into worlds that didn’t exist, all while studiously avoiding my reality.

I was always told I was the “strange” child. When you’re constantly told you’re an Other, you begin to believe it. You believe it so much, you internalize it. And then you start to cling to people who give you a bit of relief from the crushing sadness you feel inside.

I was never a chubby kid, but I was definitely bigger than all of the other girls in my grade by the time I hit middle school. We’ve already established that middle school wasn’t a picnic, but I desperately wanted everyone else to like me. One time at lunch, in order to impress a popular girl, I used the word “bitch” to describe a girl that bugged me. The word felt like aluminum foil in my mouth – tangy, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. But I spat it out anyway, because I had heard this girl use it a hundred times and she had tossed it out of her mouth as easily as a mother feeding her young. I thought it would get her to like me, to validate me. To see me.

She stared at me. I think even she knew that the word felt weird on my tongue, and it landed in the middle of the table like a lead balloon.

I’ll never be good enough for anyone, I thought miserably, staring down at my lunch of Cheetos and Push Pops, as the conversation picked up around me and left me in the dust. I had started to buy my lunch from the junk food stand in the cafeteria, avoiding the healthier lunches my mom would offer, because the popular kids were doing the same thing. The food tasted good, but hollow, because I was just trying to be accepted.

I’ve always wanted people to tell me I’m doing well, or that I’m accomplishing something, or that I’m on the right track. This desire to be validated started early. In seventh grade, in order to blend in with the popular kids, I begged my mom to buy me L.E.I. and Mudd jeans (ah, 1997). She refused to get me the giant elephant-bell ones but I made due with the casual flare. One outfit she bought me I wore at least fifteen times during that school year – black flared stretchy pants, a white collared shirt, and a vest with a diamond argyle pattern on it. Trust me, it was late 90s perfection and I wore it the hell out, but I also felt a strong sense of pride when I wore it to school the next day and the popular kids complimented me on it. I felt older than my years and accomplished and generally bad-ass, despite the fact that I had braces and probably hadn’t brushed my hair that day. But any time someone told me I looked cute, I felt victorious.

In high school, I once again felt a sense of isolation and loneliness, but I found a group of people that “got” me. While other girls were going on dates with the boys from Avon Old Farms and buying Gucci bags, we were walking down to the off-campus pizza place and screaming out all of the songs from Moulin Rouge. But bracketing those moments were other moments of deep shame over how sloppy and passive I was in comparison to my classmates. I wanted them to see me. To notice me. To say that I mattered. But that never came. Finally, senior year, I started to gain more confidence and earned the respect of those around me, but then we all graduated and I found myself at square one all over again.

College was a whole different thing. First of all, I was in a different dorm than the rest of the people in my drama class, so physically I felt left out. Then, due to the proximity of all of my classmates to each other, they formed insanely tight bonds that I attempted to break into but couldn’t because of my own self-loathing. For the first two years in college i would sit in my dorm room and cry, desperately wanting to be out and about with my friends but not really being able to figure out how to hang out with them. When they didn’t hang out with me, I assumed it was because I was worthless. I even created a sick game – at lunch, I would sit silently at a table filled with my friends and wait for someone else to talk to me. I wouldn’t speak at all. I would just wait and see if anyone else would talk to me. Of course, nobody would, because I was stonily sitting there like a damn vampire, and then I would get up and head back to my dorm, cursing them out my head. Why wasn’t anyone talking to me? They all suck. It also didn’t help that I was desperately in love with one of my classmates and basically pinned all of my validation on him for a solid two years. Any attention he threw my way I gobbled up like a dying man in a desert. At one point his a cappella group sang to me on Valentine’s Day and I lived on the euphoria of that moment for about three months. If he didn’t respond to my IMs I mentally flagellated myself.

I never addressed these issues. I stuck Band-Aids on them.

This is how you destroy relationships and yourself – You make other people the focal point of your validation and happiness and you never figure out how to erase those patterns. You can’t live unless they’re constantly reassuring you that you’re pretty, that you’re sexy, that you’re smart, that you’re awesome. When they don’t, you implode. Basically, my thought process is this:

They didn’t even notice the outfit I had on. I mean, they told me I look “nice.” Which means they don’t think I look beautiful. So they suck.
I’m with a group of new people and I desperately want them to like me. So I’ll just shut down and not be myself because “being myself” means “being weird”.
Why isn’t this person rescuing me? I came into this waiting to be rescued, and they’re just, like, their own person? Screw that!
I don’t think they think my story is interesting. I mean, they’re listening and everything, but they aren’t giving me the right response. So I’m going to get really quiet and not talk because clearly my voice doesn’t count.
PAY ATTENTION TO ME.
If someone brings up something I’m doing that isn’t necessarily for the best, I’m going to react like they shot my dog.
This person is flawed. Well, that is unacceptable.
I feel like this person doesn’t like me anymore SO I WILL TEXT THEM ALL THE TIME.
They aren’t responding to my texts. I WILL LIKE ALL OF THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS.
Someone is doing something I don’t like. I’m not going to tell them, because God forbid they get mad at me and then I’ll feel horrible and everything will be terrible.
This person isn’t giving me their full undivided attention 100 percent of the time. So I’m going to not speak to them and they’ll just have to figure out why I’m upset.
We’re going on a trip and I probably would like to do certain activities on that trip but instead, I’ll just let them run the show. Otherwise I’ll feel like I’m not being “chill.”
I’m going to stop doing all of the things I like to do because otherwise this person won’t like me.
They didn’t text me back right away. That fucker. I mean, sure they have work, and a life outside of contacting me. HOW DARE THEY.
They liked everyone else’s Instagram posts but mine. I AM THE WORST AND THEY HATE ME.

I am a destroyer. I am exhausting.

I don’t want to be a destroyer. I don’t want to be exhausting. I don’t like doing this to people. It kills me to admit that I do this to people. Because I don’t just love people for who they are. I annihilate them. I grind them into the dirt under the weight of my crushing expectations because I myself have self esteem issues. I myself don’t know what the heck I’m doing most of the time. I myself had yet to forgive myself for not accomplishing the things I thought I would.

When I realized this pattern in therapy, I felt a white hot searing shame course through me, so painful I could barely take it. Because if this is how I am with people that I love most in the world, I will never truly be happy. I never learned how to be happy by myself. I spent so much time blaming other people for my self-loathing, that when it finally came time to look at myself in the mirror, I was shocked to discover that I was the source of my sorrow. I know why I do it – I wasn’t seen for a long time in my young life. As a result, I keep magnetizing that experience to myself because it triggers those feelings of isolation and loneliness I felt as a child.

I become a happiness vacuum. Nothing is okay unless the other person in an interaction is validating my experiences, my thoughts, my feelings, and my appearance. I completely lose myself in every single situation I’m in because I lay myself at the complete mercy of someone elses’ thoughts and feelings. Which is probably totally normal in tiny doses – everyone wants the people they love to think well of them. But if you make it your sole mission to try and pin your ENTIRE universe of happiness and validation on another person, to the point that if they don’t say exactly the right thing you fall apart, you will suffer. You will suffer more than you ever thought possible. And here’s the kicker – they suffer too. Because you are literally crushing them under the weight of your own expectations.

I’m not saying I do this all the time. But when I do do it, the consequences are huge. Life-alteringly huge.

It’s easy to blame other people for your shortcomings. It’s much harder to look at a situation, to examine it from every angle, and to realize that you did plenty of damage on your own. And that’s where I’m at. I’m looking intensely into the abyss, and the abyss is staring back, going, “You did some stupid, stupid shit, and you have no one to blame but yourself.”

Whenever I get afraid I’ll lose someone – as a friend, colleague or something else – I hold on so tightly they suffocate. I suffocate things because I love them so much. Because I want them to see me. Because I have make them see that I am more than the sum of my parts. I take my fire that is so positive when applied to my career and my self-care and I set my relationships ablaze.

The good news is, I have help, and these tendencies are getting addressed in my therapy sessions and I’m working hard to make my brain work in better ways. I have yet to fully understand where this need to please and to be validated comes from (although the bullying I got as a kid probably has a lot to do with it). But I do know that I can’t ever be happy unless I learn to be happy on my own first. Which is where this summer comes in.

This summer, I’ve been learning a lot about myself. Not all of it is good. A lot of it is terrible, actually. I’ve been observing the ways I react in certain situations and I’ve been working a lot of my shadow.

I am vain. I am mean. I am spiteful. I am selfish. I am needy. I am greedy. I am insecure. I am neurotic. I am anxious. I am a little bit crazy. And it has cost me a lot. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but I wish I had been stronger. I wish I had been less needy. I wish I would have been able to let validation come from me. I wish I had just let the people who loved me love me without feeling like they needed to fix me or babysit me. I wish I had loved other people more, but not in a needy, “don’t leave me” way. In a “I trust you, and I’m my own whole person” way. And I wish I would have just let myself be…myself. Because that’s what anyone should do in a relationship. No one should get into any relationship, friendship or otherwise, expecting to get ‘fixed.’ It never ends well. I know that now. And there are some choices I made that I will regret for the rest of my life because I thought I’d get fixed and I wasn’t. Because that’s not someone else’s job. No one can fix you except you. You are the only person who will be with you for the entirety of your life. So be okay with you.

I’m getting better. I’m realizing my patterns and I’m developing coping mechanisms. Instead of sticking people on pedestals I’m learning to see people as they are – complexly, in all of their flawed and beautiful humanity. As I would want myself to be seen. And I’m starting to get off my own back, and to allow myself to just…be.

The other night, I walked down to the beach at sunset and listened the water slap against the rocks. I put on some music, sat very still, and waited for the sun to go down. I felt a deep sense of ease and contentment that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Happiness can’t come until it comes from yourself. And in that moment, I felt genuine happiness that wasn’t derived from wishing someone else would tell me how to look at myself. It was a happiness that came from the best possible source. Me.

ally

The World Only Spins Forward: On People Pleasing, Being Alone, and Letting Go.

I have spent a lot of time on my own this summer.

Some of that was not by choice. When you find yourself at the end of something, there tends to be a few responses. First, you go numb. Second, you get mad. You throw things away and cut all of your hair off and lose a lot of weight (I highly recommend the Break-Up Diet of just being so sad you can’t eat) and open up a bazillion dating site accounts. You say shit you don’t mean (“Hey, I’m fine!” “I’m totally over this whole thing!” “I’m ready to date again!” “I AM SO UNBELIEVABLY FINE!” and then you wonder why people are looking at you funny). People get engaged and you express your (completely sincere) happiness to them while frantically pushing down the searing pain in your gut. You back out of social events because you feel utterly humiliated by how much of a failure you are. And you hold on. You hold on with your bare hands to anything that feels normal.

This summer could have very easily made me go “Oh, I’m screwed. I’m about to turn thirty, I’m single, I’m still trying to get a full time job and that’s probably why I’m alone, I can barely keep my house clean, everything is awful and hopeless and I’m just gonna curl up into a ball and binge watch Bojack Horseman. THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE YEAR I DID EVERYTHING RIGHT AND I JUST WANT MY LIFE TO START, DAMMIT!”

Therapist told me “You are handling this way better than most people handle this sort of thing.” Which was very good to hear, considering how crazy I felt, but at the same time it made me go “…holy shit. There are people who are handling this WORSE than I am?!”

Then everything starts to hit and when it does, you remember your therapist telling you that keeping everything bottled up will make things worse in the long run, so you cry. You cry for a really, really long time. And then you’re fine for a few days, and then you cry again. Because you had all of these dreams, you see. You had all of these ideas and dreams and fantasies of an existence that won’t happen in the precise way you planned, and even though there had been so many red flags, you held on until your knuckles split and you crashed down and now you’re left feeling an unbearable sense of failure. And then, you start thinking about all of the other times in your life that you tried to control the end of a story and it failed miserably.

And for some insane reason, I started thinking about when I was sixth grade and I tried to hold on to something – and someone – that ultimately wasn’t good for me.

I was not a very popular kid. I was the total nerd who had some good friends but I would always look over at the popular table with envy. They were all pretty and thin and blonde and hairless, whereas I basically turned into a werewolf with braces in seventh grade. But the main thing was that I just wanted to be friends with everyone. Well, not friends – I just wanted everyone to like me. I have a psychotic need to be liked.

When I was in fifth grade, I had this friend. For the sake of this post and for privacy, I’ll call her Elphaba. Elphaba was fun, and loud, and kooky, and we were on the same travel basketball team, and I thought we would always be besties. We spent a lot of time that summer goofing around and playing, and when we won the Manchester Basketball Association Championship and I was voted MVP of the team (Go Black Knights!) we celebrated equally. I felt on top of the world.

Then, in sixth grade, she was in the same homeroom as me. I thought, “This is great! I can be friends with my pal from basketball again and everything will be awesome.” But Elphaba had changed. She wasn’t so fun anymore. She was mean, and spiteful, and aggressive. I don’t know what was going on with her and part of me wishes I had been a bit more sympathetic, but when you’re eleven, you just assume that people are going to be friends with you if they were originally friends with you.

For the entire year, I racked my brain trying to figure out what I did or said that would have made Elphaba turn on me the way she did. What was the moment where my friend turned into my enemy? She bullied me mercilessly and even got other friends to turn against me. It wasn’t necessarily the things she did that hurt, but the things she didn’t do. She acted like I didn’t even exist, and when I tried to be her friend, she’d lash out. My mom was apoplectic every time I tried to defend Elphaba, saying to me “Ally, she’s a horrible person! Why do you still want to have her in your life!?”

And all I could say was “But she was so nice to me last year. I know she still has a nice person in there, somewhere. I can’t just give up. I have to fix this!”

“Ally,” my mom said, trying to be kind but failing to disguise the agitation in her voice, “Not everyone is going to want to be friends with you. You can’t control other people.”

WHAT. That’s bullshit! I’m awesome! Anyone who doesn’t want to be friends with me is insane and OF COURSE I CAN CONTROL OTHER PEOPLE! my brain screamed.

This line of thinking is, in fact, horrifically toxic. The more you know…

I kept trying to no avail. I got more and more upset and isolated and anxious about going to school each day. I wanted her to be my friend so badly but every time I tried she just clawed away from me. I would have done anything. Nothing changed. Finally, school counselors intervened and Elphaba quit actively trying to make my life hell, but clearly we were never friends after that. I don’t know what became of her after that; I went off to high school at Porter’s and never heard about her again. I couldn’t fix her. I couldn’t rescue her. She didn’t give a shit about being fixed. And it took me a long time to realize that I hadn’t actually done anything wrong. She just stopped wanting to be in my life. Which blows, but life is unfair sometimes.

This has happened a few times in my life, mainly because I’m horrible at realizing that some people just won’t ever give a shit enough about me to realize what they’re doing, so then I blame myself for not trying harder. But it’s also because I suck at building and maintaining boundaries with people who aren’t good for me. I don’t mean the walls that go up when you can’t be emotionally open with someone. I mean boundaries that allow you to protect yourself and maintain a healthy dose of self-care and self-respect. I let everyone all the way in, because I’m a very optimistic and loving person with a big heart. And then I’m like “Oh shit, this person just screwed me over, again, and I just…let them.”

I have a pathological need for people to like me, when I really shouldn’t give a shit. I mean, as long as I like me, everything should be fine. Right?

I’m going through a bit of that right now. But the thing that totally blows about this situation is that in sixth grade, with all of my fighting to keep this one toxic person in my life, I kind of forgot about the other, awesome people in my life, who genuinely liked me, who thought I was smart, and who wanted me around. Who didn’t want to change me.

We tend to focus on the bad people instead of the good people.

You can’t really control who comes into your life, or how they’ll behave once they’re in it. And you definitely can’t control when people leave it or how they behave as they’re leaving it. That’s the heart of life, after all. People coming and going. People making you happy. People breaking your heart. People just vanishing. Nobody stays forever. But you can control how you act when they are in your life. You can either make people (other people) the center of your happiness, and you can live and die on their actions, and hold on WAY too tightly when people try to leave, or…you can just trust that you are enough and complete and whole by yourself, and let people add on to your life.

That’s a lesson I haven’t really internalized until this summer, because I love hard when I love people. I love entirely and completely and I allow other people way too deeply into my soul and I love so much that I forget to notice the little things that really should make me pause, and then I turn into someone that I kind of can’t stand. I’m not saying I’m going to love less, but I’m going to be pickier in how I spend my love. The quality of who I choose to spend my time with needs to get severely edited. I spent a long, long time very afraid of articulating how I felt in certain situations because I didn’t want other people to be mad at me. Because I’ve had too many people just up and leave when I spoke up. But I’ve realized – maybe the people who up and left when I spoke up were doing me a favor. Maybe they were vacating a spot that should be held by someone better. And maybe I need to be okay with myself first before I start trying to let someone else run my shit.

There’s a saying that I hear in yoga circles a lot called “kula.” It means “community of the heart,” or tribe. You gotta find your tribe. And it’s gotta be filled with people who love you ferociously, who would do anything for you, who will call you out on your bullshit, and who will be there when you need them. And the way you get that tribe is by being yourself, unapologetically. You have to be okay with yourself and your journey before anyone else can. And if they aren’t okay with you and your journey, or they try to fundamentally change who you are, you have to let them go. Otherwise you’re holding on to things that weren’t meant to be. Because I realized something as I was going through this valley of Emotion – I’m doing all of the right things. I’m trying to get a full time job, I’m not just sitting around not working on it. I’m actively seeking my own happiness. I’m doing musicals again, something I thought I would never do. I’m a good person. I’m a good friend. Maybe I wasn’t meant to get married or have kids, but instead I’ll pour that energy into doing good work.

After you cry, and get mad, and cut people out, you know what you do after that in the grieving process? You call up your friends and tell them “I’m in a lot of pain” and they just show up. They feed you with love, and concern, and rage, and sometimes really good barbecue and alcohol. They let you play with their animals or their babies or both. They let you cry on them. They send you funny memes. They give you CRAZY tough love that hurt like hell but it made you stronger.

Those are the people I want in my corner. I heard from people I haven’t heard from in years and I remembered just how amazing they are. That’s the way it should be. The right people will stay.

So that’s where I am right now. I’ve turned the corner from thinking everything is terrible, to thinking that perhaps my best days are ahead of me, with the people who were meant to share those days right alongside me. And in the words of my spirit animal, Tracy McConnell from How I Met Your Mother, “The world only spins forward.”

To the best days yet to come.

ally

PS – I’m still pissed about the How I Met Your Mother finale. Not so much because the Mother croaked, but because of how they totally fucked up Robin and Barney. You spend an ENTIRE season on this one wedding weekend and then divorce them in the first twenty minutes of the finale and then Robin’s this bitter single lady who sacrificed love for her career and abandons all of her friends because they give her the sads? NOPE. It was slightly redeemed by the whole “Barney meets Ellie” scene that had me practically weeping. Still, BAD FORM.

PPS – Some of those popular girls I salivated over being friends with in middle school? We’re all friends now, and we are making plans to get together and catch up now that I’m, you know, not psychotically trying to get their attention and I’m just being myself. Just goes to show you that you shouldn’t have to TRY to get people to like you, or work crazy hard to get them to be in your life. They should just be in your life.

Hiatus (Pain Demands To Be Felt)

“My dear friend and mentor, Seane Corn, once told me, ‘I wish you plenty of pain.’ Once I got past the ‘but I thought we were friends’ reaction, she explained what she meant. Pain and injury are what allows us to grow. If we were to skate through life without a care, we would breeze past so many beautiful nuances that make us who we are. It’s the pain and struggle that give us power and stability; the strongest trees bear the deepest roots and can endure anything. So in that sense, injury isn’t always this dark angel out to get us—often it’s the perfect recipe for allowing us to experience empathy, growth, and compassion.” – Kathryn Budig. 

I’m going through the valley, guys. I need to take some time away from this space. 

I’ll be back soon, with new stories and new journeys. But for now, I need silence. I need this pain. Because as John Green so elegantly put it, pain demands to be felt. 
Ally

Mental Health Awareness Month: Darkness and Light.

Therapist is a wonderfully kind and empathic woman with a softly painted office and a couch I could take a thousand naps on. When I first met with her, she sat across from me, with no notepad or anything in her hands, which automatically put me at ease because it meant she was actually going to listen. “So, why don’t you start from the beginning and I can get a sense of your history. Take your time.”

I rearranged myself on the couch, took a deep breath, and before I could even get a word out, I started sobbing.

“Oh good lord, I’m so sorry,” I babbled, and looked up into Therapist’s eyes. She didn’t judge me. She didn’t laugh. She didn’t tell me to “suck it up.” She sat there, with her kind eyes, and waited for me.

It had taken me four long years to be ready for that moment.

Around four or five years ago, my traumas woke up. A few events led to this cataclysmic awakening, but I won’t go into that. All I’ll tell you is that everything I had repressed for the first twenty-six years of my life broke free of their chains and started to stomp around in my head. Before that I had been medicating myself by controlling every bite of foods that went into my mouth, working out too much, and doing a lot of yoga. In 2011, the dam broke.

For a solid two years, at least once a month, I would break down for no reason or due to some small trigger. There was a little demon sitting in my brain that refused to let anything good, positive, or complimentary have any effect. Nope, it shouted at me. You are worthless. You are ugly. You are fat. You are nothing. At the time, I thought I was just processing my shit, or at the very worst, I had a big case of Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder (PMS on bath salts), and it would go away in due time. But now, after more than a year of psychotherapy, I know the truth. I was suffering from mild depression.

Everyone’s depression or anxiety takes different forms. This is the form mine takes.

Patton Oswalt describes unchecked depression as a happy puppy running through your body, that screams things like “PUT ON YOUR BATHROBE FOR EIGHT DAYS STRAIGHT!” or “WATCH THE PRINCESS BRIDE FOURTEEN TIMES IN A ROW!” and you just have to sit there and go “Okaaaaay, depression.” My depression did/does that, but it also tells/told me straight up lies that I couldn’t help but believe. I was completely powerless against the feelings of corrosive unworthiness running rampant. I would get angry for no reason, and stay angry all day, until I would fall asleep very early at night because of how exhausted my brain was making my body feel. Anyone can push through being physically tired if their brain is sharp. But if you’re mentally exhausted, there’s nothing you can do. And depression is so seductive, you have no choice but to give in because the part of your brain that perceives “Hey, this is not cool, I should probably get help for this thing that’s not cool” is broken.

The depression was a direct result of my generalized anxiety. Anxiety will sit in the other corner of my brain like a boxer on meth that’s been strapped down to a hospital bed. She twitches, and punches the air, and every once and a while, if I’m in a situation I can’t control, she springs loose. She heads straight to the part of my brain that controls adrenaline and starts punching it, screaming “WE ALL HAVE TO FREAK OUT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE LIFE IS TOO MUCH” and I usually end up running out of the room with legs made of rubber. When I come down from the anxiety, that’s when the depression sidles on over and starts whispering You gave in. You are a worthless piece of shit.

My parents, God bless them, tried to help as much as they could, but depression and mental anxiety are mental illnesses that honestly can’t be controlled by just “choosing” to be happy. That’s why any time I see someone with a Pinterest quote about choosing happiness I just want to punch them in their face. Happiness isn’t a choice for so, so many people. They literally can’t choose it because their brain won’t let them. “Just suck it up!” my mom would say cheerfully, as I stared blankfaced into the carpet. I can’t!!! my brain screamed.

Last year, when my panic attacks started up again due to fears about my future, they immobilized me because while I was detoxing from all of the years of traumas and EDs and unresolved shit, nothing was actually being done about that tweaked-out boxer doing a dance on my brain. Even yoga, my most personal mainstay of mental health, wasn’t helping, because I would get two minutes into a practice and then burst into tears or start shaking because I was so afraid. My body was literally rejecting everything it was processing. I didn’t want to go anywhere. Even movie theaters, once my favorite place on the planet (…I’m a simple person with simple needs) became a den of hell, and I could only sit on aisle seats in case I needed to run out of the room and get my breath. I went to a wine tasting/cheese pairing party last year with several of my closest friends and I spent nearly the entire evening on the couch, away from the rest of the party, because I was panicking. I stayed in bed until 10AM every day (which, to me, is like 2PM) and just wish I could stay in bed for a week. I never thought about death, but I did think about sleep, because my brain was fried.

Boyfriend did literally everything he could think of to make me better. He would buy me chocolate, cook me dinners filled with my favorite foods, text me stupid .gifs or memes, do stupid shit to make me laugh (and I always laughed), direct me to Reddit threads about depression, or he would just hold me while I wept into his chest, Parks and Recreation blaring in the background.

But at some point, he told me, “I can’t fix you anymore. You need someone who is professionally qualified to handle this.”

I railed against it for months. Not just because I thought I could fix the problems by myself, but the idea of asking for help scared the shit out of me. It also made me think I was crazy. I didn’t want to be crazy. Not only does depression/anxiety convince you you’re nothing, it also convinced you you don’t need help, or worse, that you don’t deserve help. And due to the stigmatization of mental illness in this country, depression is allowed to grow unchallenged and unchecked until, for many, it’s too late.

Then, last April, I decided to not audition for the fourth musical in a row because I felt like I was too fucked up to sing. To me, that was the last straw. I couldn’t let this shit get in the way of my first love, the stage. Plus, you know, all of my relationships were fucked up and I was sick of feeling like I couldn’t face sunlight. I realized that if I didn’t get help, every single one of my goals and dreams in life – to have a successful career, to be a writer, to participate in theater, to be a wife, to be a mom – all of those would be compromised. I didn’t want myself to have any of those things until I got better. That’s why I walked into that therapist’s office that day. And that’s why I’m still going.

The first few weeks were terribly difficult (I had anxiety just from going!). We’ve covered so many topics from my life, and I’ve realized that the core of my anxiety and depression stems from this unbearable need to be the best at everything, and a misunderstood nature in my teens that led to a lot of self-flagellating and fear about my body, and of other people. Therapist has helped me see how I can let go of that a bit, and start to trust myself, and to stand up for myself. Don’t get me wrong, that shit is terrifying. But it’s necessary to the process of growing and healing. Without her, I don’t know how I would have gotten through the last few months of career flux. And sure, there are weeks where I’m doing great and I’m not sure if I need to go. But there are other weeks where I have to.

It’s been a full year since I’ve started therapy. I’m doing more now in my life than I’ve ever thought possible. I’m still not sure where my career will lead me, but I feel like I’m doing fulfilling work. I know that I want to help students, and I’m working to get a job that will allow me to do that in a greater capacity. I’m working out in ways that fulfill me, including twice-weekly spin classes with my best friend. I walk with confidence. I genuinely like myself, which has fundamentally changed my relationships and the way I behave in them. And two weeks ago, I sat in a crowded theater with Boyfriend and three of our dear friends, in the middle of the aisle, and watched Pitch Perfect 2, and I didn’t feel the urge to run out once.

I’ve come a long way since that scarred, scared girl in that therapist’s office last year. I’ve got a bit more to go. But taking that first step is the most important.

This was one of the hardest essays I’ve ever had to write, because I know too many people who are suffering in silence, whose lives are invaluably precious to me, and I want to badly to hold them tightly and tell them that they are loved. But they can’t hear it. Because depression is a horrible lying asshole and it takes you deep into the mountains with it, leaving those you love in its wake.

This life is hard. This life is painful and traumatic and devastating and fucked up and everyone is hurting. But dammit, you only get one life. I’ve lost too many friends to suicide. If I save one person, it’s enough. And if you feel like nobody in your life loves you, I love you and I know you are worth it.

If you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, an internalization of work stress, or you just need someone to talk to, please get hold of local therapists in your area. And let me repeat this for the cheap seats – Asking for help means you are strong beyond imagining. It does not mean that you’re broken. It does not mean that you are weak. It could save your relationships, save your career, and even save your life.

I wasted a long chunk of my life not loving myself. Spare yourself the pain and devastation of self-hate. You deserve every piece of love that you have in your life, and you deserve to be free of what plagues you. You deserve to smile with your whole face.

You can’t love anyone until you’re prepared to love yourself first. All of the dark, and all of the light.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

ally

P.S. If your depression is going further and you are experiencing suicide ideation, the national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

P.P.S. One of the many reasons why my anxiety is tamped down is because I’m on beta blockers for an entirely unrelated heart condition. However, the beta blockers literally ‘block’ adrenaline, therefore my anxiety is a thousand times better than previously thought. Had I not been put on beta blockers, I’d probably be on anti-anxiety medication anyway.

learn to love the questions themselves.

One of my favorite writers is the German poet and philosopher Rainer Maria Rilke. You may know him from his famous collection Letters to a Young Poet, or from that giant tattoo that sits on Lady GaGa’s arm. Anyway. At one point in Letters… he says, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.”

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a very impatient person. I crave answers. I crave reasons. I crave planning. I have to have a plan for everything. I hate the questions themselves. The questions themselves can go light themselves on fire.

There’s been a few things going on behind the scenes here, and I wanted to take some time today and tell you about them, so you can get more of a sense of my life over the past few weeks/months.

Most of you know that last year I applied to several PhD programs, and got waitlisted/rejected at all of them. It was a huge pain in my butt and my wallet, but I figured I should try one more time to really make sure this wasn’t something I should be doing. So with a deep breath and the gaping maw of my wallet wide open, I took both the general and subject GREs and applied to six more PhD programs, including the one at UConn.

Four rejections and one acceptance letter to Rhode Island (that I ended up declining because they don’t offer a teaching stipend), I started to find the entire thing hilarious. I had summarily bombed the subject GRE because my beloved concentration (children’s literature and feminist/gender studies), the subject I had spent so many years devoting my days/nights/weekends to, was nowhere to be found on the test. I suffered through two hours of prosody and 18th century novels from England. I nicknamed it the Dead White Guys Test. But when my beloved professors at UConn called me in for a meeting to ‘talk about my application’ i started to get dizzyingly, psychotically optimistic. Maybe this time I’ll be lucky! So I summed my bravest Sally Bowles and stomped into my future.

Cut to me sitting in a lovely open-air office, with numb feet after having walked 15 minutes from my parking spot over unplowed sidewalks like Legolas on the Redhorn Pass, listening to people I admire and respect tell me that my second time applying to the PhD program was still not enough. I wouldn’t be getting into the program.*

Last April, when I had a similar meeting, I felt like my world was crashing down around my ears and like the entirety of my life (or at least the previous four years) had been a colossal failure and I wanted to run out of the office screaming.That feeling didn’t happen this time. I just sat there, nodded as my superiors kindly laid out for my why I wouldn’t be getting into the program, and I even tried to smile. After a few moments, I quickly realized that smiling wasn’t going to work, and that’s when I dissolved and quietly began to cry. I didn’t feel  the panic or the failure of the previous year, just a sense of mourning for something that died.

After that feeling passed, I felt a tremendous urge to get back up on my feet and start up with a new plan. So I couldn’t get into a PhD program. So what? I could figure out another way to teach. So I immediately thought of how my Mom always tells me I’d be great in a private school setting. Within days, I was sending out applications to all CT private schools with openings in the state.

I was being incredibly reactive. But that’s always been my fallback – when in doubt, plan the shit out of my life. No room for surprise or devastation that way. You would think with all of the yoga I do, I would be more open to change.

That was two months ago. Since then, I’ve had two school visits that went very well, but at the end of the process I realized that every private school is going to be looking for someone with high school experience. So, me being reactive/proactive/crazypants, I immediately started to research alternative certification programs in CT so I could get my teaching license. But, then, something kind of crazy happened. I actually sat still for a second and realized that I didn’t really want to get my teaching license. I like what I’m doing now – adjunct teaching English courses that I can have full autonomy over. That won’t happen in high school classes. Everything I love to teach would be essentially verboten.

Then I realized something else. I have to always be doing something. If I’m not doing something, I’m being lazy. Never mind that in the past year I’ve held up to four jobs at once in order to pay my bills, and I don’t really see my friends that often unless I specifically pencil them into my calendar (the amount of “I miss you!” messages I get from friends is super depressing). My life needs to be planned out to the last second, otherwise I experience low-grade anxiety. (It used to be high-grade, but beta blockers are great.)

I brought up these questions to Therapist two weeks ago during our session. “I feel like if I’m not doing something or planning out my life, things will just go nuts,” I said, arranging myself in my corner of the comfortable couch in her office (yes, she has a couch. And it’s insanely soft.)

“Why do you think you always need to have a plan for your life?” Therapist asked, leaning back in her chair. I thought about this for a little bit, and what ended up coming out of my mouth was completely unexpected, yet entirely accurate.

For my entire life, I knew exactly what I was going to be. From the time I was 5 years old I wanted to be an actor. It was all I thought about, it was all I worked hard at, it was the only thing that made sense. (Aside from writing, but I figured that would be a terrible profession.) But at the same time, I also felt like whatever happened would happen, and I would just coast along with the right amount of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. If you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race you know what I’m talking about.

Then, New York happened. Everything I had worked so hard for fell apart, and for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Everyone tells you that that’s what your 20s are for – to be a screwup, to not know what’s going on. But for someone like me, who is so accustomed to knowing exactly how things are going to be, this was a recipe for complete disaster. I had never experienced this type of failure before and I was entirely ill-equipped to deal with it. This loss of control is what led to the year of panic attacks, an eating disorder that stripped me of my health for two and a half years, and just overall chaos. That loss is also what drove last year’s anxiety and depression, leading to weight gain and general feelings of inadequacy that I am just now pulling myself out of. I wasn’t “loving the questions themselves.” The questions were killing my spirit.

“I just don’t want that to happen again,” I said quietly, finishing off my story, looking out the window of Therapist’s office and into the parking lot, where the blazing hot sun was glaring off the hood of my car. Therapist nodded, and then said something that gave me a spark.

“I feel like you’re one of those people who should control what they can control, because that’s something that calms you down. And then you also should get to the point where you can learn to let go of the things you can’t control.”

A few days later, I did a yoga class taught by Kathryn Budig (through yogaglo.com) and after the practice, she said “Be okay with changing course. Be open to change in all forms. All forms of strength are good.”

So there’s going to be some turnover here, and I’m going to ride the wave. I’m applying to jobs at universities that deal with student support and writing centers, and also hopefully going to get some work tutoring students. And by the end of this summer, I hope to finish the first draft of my book (!!!).

Speaking of things that scratch an itch…In February I did my first full play in five years (!!!) and last week, despite a ton of fear, anxiety, and a singing voice that hasn’t seen a lesson in five years, I auditioned for a musical. Shrek the Musical to be exact. I may have sounded like Axl Rose swallowing glass, but I did it. Not only did I get in to the musical, but I got a part that’s awesome. It made me realize that I missed musical theater more than I ever thought I could miss anything. I’m starting up voice lessons again. Every single weekend from now until the end of July is jampacked with activities and weddings and stuff. So my only plan for the summer is to try to relax, sleep as much as possible, read a lot of books, spend time with my friends/BF/family, and go for a lot of swims.

I’ll never not be someone who plans things out. But change is a part of life. I may not love the questions themselves, but I’m starting to like them a lot more.

*Note: I was not interested in UConn’s PhD program because of Dad. I was interested because they are the only program in the northeast with a concentration in children’s literature. So, shove it.

Anxiety/Depression Part Five: Abyss. (Guest Post)

Hi guys. This post is a guest post by a good friend of mine who asked if he could share his story of anxiety, depression, and suicidation with my readers. For the sake of his privacy, he will remain anonymous. I hope you read his powerful, nakedly honest account of struggling with suicidal thoughts and know that these sorts of feelings and thoughts can happen to anyone, even you. You never know who might be struggling.

“I’ve battled depression for most of my life. I think that’s why I started acting. It was my daily escape. I could retreat inside and hide from the world. My roles were shields and applause was my drug. Instead of facing the world I could let all these different characters do it for me. I also think that’s why I was never a very good actor. Sure, I passed for one on the surface. I was a working professional for a few years. I recited all the requisite lines, performed all the requisite motions, manipulated my voice with the greatest of ease and actually brought a sincere passion to my work.

But deep down I knew I was doing it wrong.

Acting is about stripping away the walls we construct around ourselves; peeling away layers until we are exposed and nothing remains but truth. No falseness. No pretending. It’s just you, at your most vulnerable, psychologically and emotionally laid bare for all the world to see. I couldn’t do it. Despite all the characters I showed the world, I never let it see the real person underneath. Instead of peeling away layers to expose myself, I put on as many as I could to hide behind. I was clad in an impenetrable armor of William Shakespeare, Arthur Miller and Sam Shepard.

It’s been three years since I performed and as I slowly lose hold of those shields that once protected me, I’ve begun to remember why I needed them so desperately in the first place. I was never afraid of the world. The armor wasn’t for them. It was for me. I was, and still am, afraid of myself. I’m afraid to be honest with myself about who I am. I’m afraid of how little I like myself. After all, how can I expect anyone else to love me if I can’t even do it.

That fear overwhelmed me last summer when, for the first time, I developed a very real plan for suicide. All the ugliness I feel inside forced its way to the surface, when in a rare moment of honest self-evaluation, I tried to grapple with some of demons that haunt me every day.

I’ve been unemployed for most of the past two years. Until very recently I was having trouble even landing an interview. I was forced to move back into my parents’ house because I can’t afford rent. I don’t have a car. My situation would make anyone unhappy, but because of my depression it makes me dangerous. What most people would see as a temporary rough patch feels like quicksand to me. The harder I struggle to break free, the deeper I keep getting sucked in. The deeper I sink, the harder it becomes to imagine ever surfacing again.

I can’t seek help. Asking for help would validate all the horrible things I’ve thought about myself through the years. It would mean that I am as weak as I feared, that I can’t handle my own problems like a man, and quite possibly that I’m a fucking crazy person. So when another phone call from Sallie Mae prompted a heated confrontation between my father and myself, the thunderous weight of my own inadequacies came crashing down upon me and I broke. I collapsed, utterly helpless, in a ruined heap of shuddering flesh.

It was more than I could bear and like a drowning man whose lungs are screaming for air, all I could think about was how to end the pain. I didn’t want help, I wanted a way out.

I summoned all my strength and rose to my feet. Still weeping, short of breath and shaking uncontrollably, I told my parents I was going to find a bridge to jump off.

They didn’t believe me. I’ve never been so wounded in my life as when I told the two people who should love me unconditionally that I was leaving to go kill myself and they more or less shrugged it off.

So I left.

I walked out into the pouring rain and headed to the I-95 overpass.

My pace was slow. It took me nearly an hour to walk less than a mile to the bridge. When I arrived I just stood there waiting, watching the traffic splash by below me.

It occurred to me that if I landed on a car I could hurt somebody or cause an accident, and I didn’t want my problems to hurt anyone else. It’s one thing to take your own life, it’s quite another for someone else to lose theirs as collateral damage. So I kept waiting in the rain, hoping beyond hope that my parents would realize how long I’d been gone after what I had told them, and try to make sure I was okay. All it would have taken was one phone call, just one text, anything to let me know that somebody, anybody, actually cared and I would have left that bridge and gone home.

It’s not that I wanted attention. That’s the last thing I want, especially that kind of attention. I just wanted a reason to keep fighting and having even one person give a shit would have been enough.

But they never called. Nobody did.

The realization that the world didn’t give a damn whether I lived or died hit me like a kick to the stomach. My whole body felt ill. I began to feel intense guilt, not for what I was about to do, but for all the things I’d done wrong that I’d never get to set right.

I thought of my friends whose upcoming weddings might be tainted by my suicide. I thought of the time I left my little brother alone in the dark and he was so scared he cried. I couldn’t leave this world with such a heavy conscience so after waiting by the I-95 overpass for what felt like an eternity, wishing anybody knew how badly I needed them to care, I decided to go to confession.

I was going to confess to a priest, absolve my sins, and leave this world unburdened, finally free. I went to the same church where I had my first communion, was confirmed and even taught CCD.

The priest was new. Suddenly my plan went up in smoke. I couldn’t confess to a stranger. I never even went into the building. I knew I couldn’t confess to this man, so I just sat in what became a rather large puddle on the church’s rear steps. I don’t know how long I was there, but nobody bothered me. Indeed, I doubt anyone even saw me.

For the first time in a long time, I prayed. I told God what I was going to do and asked him for answers. I asked if there was any reason I needed to keep enduring this life and if so, to show me a sign before I left, because after that it would be too late. I left the church, feeling just as empty and guilty as when I got there, and started back towards the overpass.

I was about halfway back to the bridge when I passed one of my old childhood hangouts; a small, secluded beach on a pond near where I grew up. Without thinking, I turned down the path to the water and sat on the fallen elm tree with my toes in the wet sand one last time. I sat there for a long time.

I don’t know how long, but the sun was peeking through the clouds and getting low in the sky when suddenly a voice boomed out from the path behind me, “Look what I found, the thinking man!” A man in his 50’s wearing Paco jean shorts with flip flops and a t-shirt emerged from the woods.

I politely said hello and went right back to staring at the water, doing my best to make it clear I didn’t want him there. He took no mind. He comes here to fish, he explained, and as the rain cleared up there’d be plenty of worms near the surface to use for bait. He introduced himself. His name was Milton but I didn’t care. I just kept staring blankly into the water, hoping he would go away.

Oblivious, he kept right on digging for worms. I started glancing around, thinking if I found any he would leave sooner. When neither of us found any he let out an exasperated sigh and turned to go. Watching him leave made me so happy that for a brief moment I forgot why I’d ended up out in the rain in the first place.

Then Milton came back.

He sauntered up with his fishing pole and a rubber lure, happier than a pig in shit. Seeing how happy he was felt like a slap in the face. I had to leave. I had to get back to the bridge. I had to escape once and for all. I turned to leave and Milton stopped me.

‘Where you going’ he asked. I told him I needed to take care of something. I wasn’t expecting a follow-up question.

When he asked what it was I froze. I wasn’t about to tell this complete stranger that I was on my way to commit suicide, but I wasn’t expecting him to ask and didn’t have a ready answer. I hesitated. Milton pounced.

‘Can’t be that important, then,’ he interjected, ‘C’mon man, it’s a Sunday and there’s plenty of fishing to do. Sit down, have a beer with me.’

I politely declined but Milton insisted, ‘One beer won’t kill you.’

I know ‘won’t kill you’ is a common phrase but something in his voice gave me pause. I turned to face him and maybe it was my imagination or my guilt, but I swear he looked right through me. He knew. He already had a Heineken open for me. When he offered it up, I took it, out of reflex more than anything. ‘One beer,’ I told him.

We shared a drink and he asked why I’d been out getting all wet in the rain and what I was doing here. I simply told him that I used to come here when I was a kid. He asked me to tell him something about myself, so I told him I grew up in town. He told me he moved here eight years ago.

We went back and forth like that for a bit until I finished my beer. He offered another. In spite of myself, I started to find his carefree happiness to be infectious. I agreed. One more beer.

We started talking in earnest. About where we were from, what we’d done, shared our views on the world. Turns out he was an Ivy Leaguer who graduated cum laude from Penn. I told him I’d always wanted to be an actor. He asked if I’d given up. I said I didn’t know. Milton told me it sure sounded like I had. He told me I sounded like my life was already over, how sad it made him that someone so young could be so unhappy.

‘I never said I was unhappy.’ I protested. He said I didn’t need to say it, he could see it. He cast his line into the water and the two of us watched his bobber drift away. He never asked why I was so miserable, but he offered the simple suggestion that I shouldn’t give up. He never specified if he meant in acting or in life, but it didn’t matter. Milton’s just the kind of guy that wants people to be happy, whatever they do.

When his wife called to ask when he’d be coming home, he told her, ‘a little later. I’m fishing with my new friend.’

My new friend. When I heard that, after all I’d been through that day, my heart split so wide open I might have cried all over again.

We had one more beer and he cast a few more lines, but he never got a bite and he never asked why I was unhappy. He asked me about everything besides that. He asked what my favorite acting role was. He asked about my high school sweetheart. He asked if I wanted to fish again next week. And when he finally left, the last thing Milton asked was if I still had to take care of whatever I needed to do.

‘No,’ I told him, ‘I think I’m just gonna go home.’ And I did.

My parents still don’t know where I was or how close I came to ending my own life. Milton saved my life that day and I think he knows it. My parents couldn’t be bothered and my friends forgot about me, but this man I’d never met before gave the gift of his company and it was enough to save me.

We all have that power.

There are millions of people like me who reach a breaking point and find themselves staring into that same abyss. Just because they didn’t jump in doesn’t mean they aren’t still teetering on the edge. To reach the point where suicide is a real option requires complete surrender. Once you’ve done that, it’s hard to break free of that mindset and almost impossible to do so on your own.

So be like Milton. Sometimes simply being there is enough. Share your time. Ask questions. Listen. Pay attention. If you care about somebody, show them. There’s no telling when it might save them.”

As someone who’s lost two old friends in the past year to suicide, I’m so glad that this friend wasn’t the third. Sometimes, all that has to happen is for someone to listen. 

On Sports, Erasure, and Media Narrative.

So far, this trip to Tampa is proving much more satisfactory than the previous visit in 2008, when it rained the entire time and we lost and it was terrible and we will not speak of it again.

So far, I’ve had one of the most relaxing and fun Final Fours in recent memory. As you may remember, last year I spent most of the Final Four under a storm cloud of my own making, crippled by paralyzing anxiety. Now, thanks to a lot of hard work (and some help from medication), I’ve been having a blast. Plus, it’s easy to relax when your biggest task all day is to go to the gym and then spend a ton of time in the pool with some of your best friends, and then watch men’s and women’s championship games.

Notice how I said “men’s and women’s games” above. Including those pronouns makes a world of difference. As a gender scholar and overall loudmouth, I’d like to take this time to talk about those types of small things that can lead to micoaggressions.

The gender pronoun clarifies which game and which sport I’m talking about. The difference between men’s and women’s basketball is significant, and not in a bad way. They’re just different games. The point is, language can be used as either a sign of erasure or of recognition.

Last night, Duke won the tournament thanks to defense, the implosion of Wisconsin’s offense, and some bad refereeing. I quite like Coach K (He’s a friend of the family) so I wasn’t too bummed out like the rest of my friends. But then I was reading Twitter after the game and all of the major networks kept saying the same thing. They said Coach K is the most prolific basketball champion after John Wooden. Coach K’s the only one who comes close to Wooden’s record of 10 national championships. The way Sportscenter and ESPN were phrasing their tweets, and the way the media creates the narrative they do about sports, it was as if the women’s game and my father’s accomplishments were ‘less-than.’

It’s worse online and on the shows, too. On ESPN’s website, you have to click through to “Other Sports” tabs to get to the “Women’s BB” link.Today on the Today Show, Willie Geist pronounced March Madness as “officially over”. Grantland barely even mentions the women’s game; once, Bill Simmons wrote an article stating that he’d rather see Sue Bird in a cocktail dress at the ESPYs than driving the lane in the WNBA. (Just to be clear – Sue’s got three gold medals. What do you have, Bill?)

This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night because it frustrates me to no end that these outlets continually erase the accomplishments of women. This is an example of the removal of pronouns creating gender erasure, and basic ignorance leading to an entire sport getting diminished in the public eye because we’re taught not to care about it. Because we are women, we are used to being quietly, but definitely, erased. It’s as if we aren’t there at all. It’s so easy to quiet us down because they just pretend we aren’t here. You can’t be what you don’t see. That’s why so many people see us as irrelevant. It’s because the mass media (with its tendency to shove the wrong thing down our throats) creates a narrative of erasure, even if they don’t necessarily mean to do so.

Tonight, my father’s team plays Notre Dame (an incredible basketball team with a storied history of its own) for the right to win his 10th national title in twenty years. That is an astounding record. Granted, ESPN has a lot of great things on its record for how it respects my Dad and the women’s game when we play. But when my Dad comes out and says some necessary, needed criticism of the men’s game (I mean, come on…last night’s game was just ugly) the response is akin to “Your sport doesn’t count.”

We’ve been told for so long that we don’t count, that we don’t matter, that we need to go away. I’m sick of it.

I’d like to see one of these Tweeters, with ten followers and a loud mouth, come into our practice and try to play with these ladies. Stewie would kill them. Morgan would out-maneuver them. Mo would break their ankles. Kia would steal the ball from under their nose. And Kiah would block their shot into the nosebleeds. And Dad would make them cry. It would be great.

We make it look easy because we have to. What we do is nearly impossible, yet we make it look effortless. You will miss us when we are gone, because nothing lasts forever.

Honestly? The main reason I get so angry about all of these morons dismissing our game aggressively or passively is simple: These kids are fantastic. They’re one of the most tight-knit groups we’ve ever had and they genuinely love to play together and to have fun with each other off the court.

Also? He comes off as a douche, but Dad is an amazing person. When we go out to dinner, he makes friends with the entire wait staff. He is an aggressively good tipper. He wants to know everything about you. He makes you feel like you’re the only person on the planet, which is why he’s always late to everything – time doesn’t matter when he’s with someone he likes and he’s got a great story that he absolutely must share. He’s a workhorse, one who never stops pushing the players that he knows can take it.

I can’t think of many coaches on the men’s or women’s side that deserve every inch of success like he does. And he’s the last person to compare himself to John Wooden, but I think it’s a good comparison. And that’s not just because he’s my Dad. It’s because I am a fan of a beautifully played game. I grew up watching old footage of UCLA and it left me in awe. Dad’s team inspires the same feeling.

Women’s basketball will be taken seriously in this country when the media stops treating it like an afterthought.

I encourage all of you, even if you’re not a women’s basketball fan or you think it’s irrelevant, to tune in tonight at 9PM when we play Notre Dame. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see the beauty in it, too.

ally