Excuse me, ma’am, can you take our picture?

I’ve come to realize there’s an age when you truly become a ma’am when you live up North.  You might occasionally be called miss, but that’s usually a kid whose mom is around your age and knows the dangers of calling a woman ma’am when you don’t live in the South.  He’s veering on the side of caution, hoping you’ll be flattered, smiling back at you when you beam your very best smile back at his face.  That smile where you hold your head just right, praying to a God you only occasionally believe in that the wrinkles on your neck don’t show.

There are times when you don’t have the energy for that smile, when it’s been a long couple of weeks and an even longer day.  A guy who is probably five years older than you approaches as you pray someone is walking next to you because you just used up every ounce of your give a fuck and don’t even have time for this.

“Ma’am?  Excuse me, ma’am?  Can you take our picture?”

And I do because I’m not a complete asshole.  I line them up just right, Dad with his three kids, one of whom needs a little reminder to stay in the shot after the fourth one of him running away.

“Kid, get in line or your Dad won’t buy you an ice cream on the way home.”

Yeah, Dad was pissed about that, but I didn’t give a fuck because I didn’t want to be taking this picture anyway.  I said I wasn’t a complete asshole, not that I wasn’t an asshole at all.  I handed the phone back to Dad, who asked me where he could buy an ice cream.

“I have no idea, but I’m sure you’ll pass a gas station at some point that has a cooler.  Enjoy your weekend.”

I hear you asking why I was so rude about it.  I know I didn’t have to be, but I said it was a long couple of weeks and an even longer day.  I’d just used up what was left of my smile taking a picture with one of my cousins who was at the baseball with her gorgeous family.  And the sole of my shoe had literally just decided it was DONE and half detached from the rest of my shoe, so I was limping along, trying to keep my shit together after a day where everything had been going so well until the Tigers fell apart.

I had a fancy seat for the game, I had a seat at the bar for the rain delay, I had a delicious vodka lemonade, I got to sit in the sun and chat with the great guys sitting behind me.  The Tigers shit the bed, but I was having a good day, great even (y’all know how I am about sunshine).  And then it was time to go meet some of my family to say hi before going home to relax.  I was washing my hands in the bathroom at the same time as a woman wearing a Konerko jersey.

“I don’t know why you all even bother to come here when your team sucks.  Why don’t you go support your city?”

Excuse me?

“I mean, Detroit sucks, obviously, the city and the team, so shouldn’t you and your friends be there trying to improve it instead of spending your money here?”

I stopped washing my hands and faced her, raging with anger, wanting to run away, but I couldn’t let that go.  In all the years I’ve gone to games here, of all the shit I’ve taken, NEVER has anyone been this rude.

“I’m here by myself.  I’ve lived here for almost 20 years and consider it home.  I come to games here because I like seeing my team play.  I can’t afford to go to Detroit that often.  Usually people in Chicago are really nice.  I actually live in the city, and I’m not sure what suburb you must have come from, you rude cunt.”

Her mouth fell open, and my hands were shaking as I walked out without bothering to dry my hands.

As I stood on the escalator to exit, I wondered why do I live here?  I love this city, but I couldn’t find one single person to go to the game with me.  On a gorgeous day.  When everyone else has plans that I wasn’t invited to because I isolate myself.  I’m not sure it would be any different in Detroit.

And then I met up with my family.  One of my cousins (third cousin? Second? I dunno, but she’s amazing), her husband, and her son who had come here from Grand Rapids to see the game.  O is getting to be the age where hugging his weird cousin who is old enough to be his aunt is gross, but we all hugged, and my cousin B may have noticed that I held that hug for an extra beat.  I will love her forever for not pulling back.  I needed that hug.

As I’m walking away from them, something pulls my shoe and I realize the sole has literally come off of the back half of my sandal.  Great.  JUST FUCKING GREAT.  I’m limping along, wondering why I live here, wondering why I push everyone away, wondering why I don’t live in Detroit, why I even fucking bother.

“Ma’am? Can you take our picture?”

 

I should have said no, but I hope that kid got his ice cream.

 

I wish I didn’t do it, but it hurts so good.

So in spite of the fact that I’ve laid my soul pretty bare for you guys, there are some things I haven’t told you.  I’m going to tell you one of them now.  I know, you’re like, “elm, you’ve told us so much and there’s more?”  Yes.  There’s more.

I’m a cutter.  I know, gross, right? Who DOES that? Who cuts their own skin?  That’s for teenagers with angsty feelings, right?  Adults don’t do that, do they?

They do, actually.  Or I do, anyway.  But not all the time.  Let me explain.

I’m a very clumsy person.  I trip a lot.  I bump into stuff a lot.  I’ve kind of always been this way.  I went over the handlebars of my bike when I was around 10 because I’ve never been very coordinated.  And when you fall, a lot of times, you get cuts and scrapes.  And they start to heal and you get scabs.  And they itch.  And you know it’s gonna hurt if you scratch, but you do it anyway, and there’s something satisfying about peeling the scab off your skin.

“God, elm, gross.”  I hear you.  It is gross.

I know.  It is gross, but the pain it brings is so fucking soothing.  It’s a pain that won’t kill me but still brings some of the pleasure that cutting my own skin will bring when I’m in my darkest hour.  It’s a pain that lets me know I’m still alive without taking that final step.  It’s soothing.  I know other people do the same thing but for entirely different reasons.

My dermatologist has asked me what some of my scars are, and I’ve had to be honest with her about it.  When I’ve had chunks cut out of my skin, she’s begged me to not pick at it until she knows if she’ll have to go back in to take out more after the one time I let the wound dry out so it would become a scab and she saw it.  She asked me why I did it, I put her in touch with my therapist, she took another piece of my skin to make sure the cancer wasn’t still there, and it took everything I had to not let it dry out again.  I don’t know why I do it.  But I can’t help it.

There’s something about peeling the scab away from the skin, the pulling, the pain, the blood, knowing that it will heal over and I can start over.  Knowing that this is the one kind of pain I can inflict on myself that isn’t going to be permanent, other than a scar.  It’s something I do so I don’t do something worse.  Scars don’t scare me.

When I haven’t been clumsy, and there are no scabs, I’ve cut myself.  Only shallow cuts, never anything that will kill me.  Those are the cuts I’ve made when I need to feel the relief, but I’m not ready to die.  Those are the cuts I’ve made when I’m ready to heal again.  The ones where I need to feel the pain, but I’m not ready to die.

There’s a spot on my index finger that I couldn’t leave alone after hearing the news about Chris Cornell this morning.  He is proof that money and fame don’t buy you happiness or protect you from the bullshit that depression is.  I burned myself trying to get a piece of pasta that fell out of a pan over a week ago. I told you I’m clumsy.  It hasn’t healed yet, probably because I keep messing with it.

But it’s better than the alternative, right?

13 Reasons Why (I haven’t died by suicide – Yet?)

I haven’t written a love letter to you guys lately, and it’s well past time that I do so.  I’ve been watching the new Netflix show “13 Reasons Why,” which is based on the novel “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher.  I now own the book, but I haven’t started reading it.  I’ve been VERY public about the fact that I’m watching this show.  Some of you have chided me, telling me it can’t be good for me and to NOT WATCH IT.  (and you know how I feel about people telling me I can’t do something – my mania says I DO WHAT I WANT)  Some of you have asked me to watch it if I feel I need to but to please reach out for help if it becomes too triggering.  A couple of you have even encouraged me to watch it and share my insights.  I haven’t decided yet if I’ll write anything about how I feel about the show.  I’m having a lot of feelings, but I can’t yet put them into words.  I’ll say this.  It’s not my story.  It’s not why I’ve ever been suicidal.  I’m morbidly curious about the suicide on screen as that’s one way I’ve been ready to die by suicide.  I may not watch that part.  I haven’t decided.

So far, none of it has been triggering (thanks new good therapist!), though I can see how it could be if I were unmedicated or happened to be in a particularly dark depression.  Or maybe I’m just on early episodes.  I have very strong feelings about what I’m watching, but none of it has seemed at all like it relates to me, my mental health issues, or my suicidal ideation.  That doesn’t mean it won’t trigger me, and I will reach out if it does.

I know, you’re thinking, “okay this is great and all, but WHERE IS MY LOVE LETTER.”  Jeez, y’all are impatient.  Settle down.  Get your beverage of choice.  Get some tissues in case you’re a cryer like me.  Get comfy on the couch.  Get ready to read.  Because here are my 13 reasons why I haven’t died by suicide.

1. My parents deserve better from me

As y’all know, I’m an only child.  I’m not the person my parents hoped I would turn out to be (40, single, no kids, mental health issues), but I know they’re proud of me.  I know they love me.  I know they support me and have since I was born.  They’ve let me make my own decisions even when they had other hopes and dreams for me.  And I know it would destroy them if I took my own life.  I am unapologetic about the fact that I don’t want children and about the fact that I have zero intention of ever getting married.  I cannot apologize for my mental health issues – I hate them too, but there’s only so much I can do about them.  But I can do everything possible to make sure that I stay alive.  This isn’t to say that the families of people who did die by suicide didn’t deserve better or that the person who died did anything wrong.  It is not for me to judge.  None of this blog post is about anyone other than I (me? Hell if I know for sure).

2. My cats deserve better

Torii Hunter M. and Tyrus Raymond M. (last names protected bc this blog isn’t entirely public) are my current cats, and if I died, I’m not sure what would happen to them.  Sure my parents would take them, but Tyrus has become insanely bonded to me (like right now, he’s literally trying to climb inside the fleece I’m wearing and purring so hard he just choked a little).  And they’d be home with me when I did it, and I don’t know how cats process stuff, and my cats deserve to have me here.  That litter box ain’t gonna scoop itself.

3. I’m not done with my baseball quest (this list is not in order of importance after numbers 1 and 2)

As you may or may not know, I’m on a quest to see the Detroit Tigers play a game of the best sport in the world in every park in the MLB.  I’ve been to 18 of the 30 parks (Oakland, Chicago White Sox, Comerica, Wrigley, Cleveland, Camden Yards (Orioles), Fenway, Minneapolis, Kauffman (KC), Busch (STL), Angels, Great American Ballpark (CIN), Ballpark at Arlington (TEX), Marlins, PNC (PIT), Nationals, Yankees, Turner Field (ATL – I’ll do Sun Trust after I get the 30 that existed when I really started this).  I’m getting Arizona in 11 days.  11 more to go after that.  Interleague play makes this easier, but it’s going to be a number of years before I’ve gotten them all.  I’m hoping to get them by the time I turn 50.  Donations for my travels are encouraged since you’ll never have to spend money on a baby shower gift. (I’m kidding.  Maybe.  Not about the baby shower thing.)

4. Baseball has literally saved me from myself

There was a night I was sitting in my bathroom with a razor at my wrist with a bathtub full of warm water, about to take off the rest of my clothes (Who gets into a bath with all their clothes on?) when I got a notification from MLB that the Tigers had taken the lead in a game I wasn’t watching.  I was so deep inside my head, and usually my phone is on silent.  And I have notifications turned off on MLB.  But I’d done an update earlier that day, and I’d taken my phone out of its case – putting it back in the case usually flips the sound back on.  So I looked at my phone and ran to turn the game on.  The Tigers won the game, and I stayed alive for another day.

5. Chance the Rapper

When I was a child, I was pretty religious in a sense.  I went to church every Sunday, I was a junior deacon.  But eventually I declared myself done with god and with religion in general.

Until I started listening to Chance the Rapper when I was 36.  This mixtape Acid Rap came across my earholes thanks to an NPR show called Sound Opinions (hosted by local music critics).  I listened, I loved it, I listened some more, and then I kind of forgot about it. Surf (by The Social Experiment) released in May of 2015, and I listened to it (it might have been Sound Opinions again, I don’t remember).  I remembered why I love Chance (Sunday Candy is magic, y’all).  He gets closer to god in this one, and I started to wonder.

Then Coloring Book dropped in May of last year.  I forget exactly how I heard about it, but it literally changed my life.  If you’re FB friends with me, you know how much I love him.  “All Night” is a fun song and has always been my favorite, but “Blessings” touched me somewhere deep inside that I’d forgotten.  Something I’m realizing needs its own number.

6. Blessings keep falling in my lap

“I’m gon’ praise him, praise him ’til I’m gone. When the praises go UP, the Blessings come down . . . it seems like Blessings keep falling in my lap.”

From the very first time I heard it, this song spoke to me.  “Are you ready . . . for your miracles?”  There is something about this song that reminds me that I am fortunate.  I know there are people who have it MUCH worse than I do, but I also subscribe to the theory that just because someone has it worse than you doesn’t mean that you don’t have problems.  I was ready for my miracles.  I was ready for the Blessings to fall into my lap.  And I started to believe in God again.  I didn’t start going to church again or anything, but every time I was in the bathroom seeking out the razor, I tried to remember that I am blessed.  I am privileged.  I have mental illness that I can’t control, but I can fight against it.  I can use my privilege to fight for other people.  Because I have my Blessings and they keep falling in my lap.

7. Beach glass

In 2011, I left a job I hated more than any job I’ve ever held, even the one where I got fired basically because I wouldn’t sleep with my manager.  I didn’t have another job lined up, and I spent the winter of 2011/2012 looking for another job.  Mother Nature smiled on me, and it was nice outside that winter.  I started going to the beach to listen to the water and began picking up what some call sea glass but what I call beach glass because Lake Michigan is fresh water.  I was picking up a hundred pieces at a time, and I needed a hobby.  I started making jewelry out of it.  Some of you have pieces that I made, and I hope you still love them and wear them.  Once I found a new job, I didn’t go as often to the beach to pick up glass, but there’s still something about going and listening to the water, eyes on the sand, blocking out the sounds of the city.  The day after the election, I took the day off work, and I went out to brunch, followed by a gorgeous November morning, picking up glass, taking a nap in the sand, and picking up more glass.  They’re treasures from God only knows when, probably beer bottles if they’re green, brown, or white, but who knows.  And when they’re aqua, lavender, red, or, my favorite, royal blue, you wonder where that glass has been and whose life it touched.

8. Walkenchippen

I have no idea if I’m spelling that correctly, but it’s my thing with my Dad, so that’s how it’s spelled.  When I was a little girl, my Mom worked as a florist, and she often had to work Saturdays at weddings and whatnot.  So I’d hang out with my Dad.  He’d do a Daddy-do (a really terrible pony tail) and let me eat cheese all day.  You know those rounds of cheese that are about 8 inches long and covered in wax?  I knew where to find the cheese slicer and would eat so much cheese.  But I also remember there being records played and getting to go walkenchippen.

I can hear you, “elm, what the FUCK is walkenchippen?”

Walkenchippen is when your Dad puts Barry Manilow on the record player, and you’re a small girl so you stand on his feet and you dance together to “Copacabana” and “Can’t Smile Without You” but somehow you remember “Bandstand” the best.  There’s a reason I love Barry Manilow, y’all.  I’m going to see him in a few weeks, and I’ll be there alone, but I’ll remember walkenchippen.

9. You will learn how to drive this car if it kills us

I currently drive a manual transmission 2013 Mazda CX-5, and if you know me at all, you know I LOVE THIS CAR.  It’s pretty basic (not as basic as the first car I bought where a radio was an option), but it’s a manual transmission.

Yes, I live in a city, but I hardly ever drive.  I generally put about 4000 miles a year on my car.  I just got the car’s oil changed for the first time in almost a year (and holy fucking hell there was a dead rat or squirrel or SOMETHING caught in there and they normally never touch cars with that, and thank you, and I still need to send them pizza or something), but when I do drive my car, making sure it’s in neutral, slapping the stick left and right to make sure, zooming at lights, seeing how long I can go in stop and go traffic with never tapping the brakes.

But to get to this point, I had to learn how to drive a stick shift.  Enter my Mom, age roughly 39, with a five speed manual transmission Plymouth Voyager.  My Dad did most of the learning to drive duties, but I had to learn to drive a stick.  On a mini van where the stick was like a fucking baseball bat.  With a woman who has more patience than I, but we are so very similar.  When I was a passenger, my Mom would have me shift with my left hand while she operated the clutch.  I don’t think we ever stalled.  We’re a good team.  Until we aren’t.  I stalled out when driving, and I remember yanking the emergency brake, getting out of the car and walking home.  We were all of a block and a half from my house, but MAN DID I HAVE FEELINGS.

My Mom and I had a lot of fights when I was a teenager, when I was in my 20’s, when I was in my 30’s, and we’ve finally seemed to figure out our shit now that I’m in my 40’s.  But every single fucking time I get in my car, I’m glad she didn’t give up on me learning how to drive a stick.  It brings me joy, and she gave that to me.

Oh, and no I won’t teach you to drive a stick.

10. Baseball/Music festivals

At some point in May 2016,  Chance the Rapper became a pretty big deal, and I got tickets to what is now known as the Magnificent Coloring Day.  It was near on impossible to find someone to come with me, but I’m fine going alone because it’s Chance and I’ve long since quit giving a fuck about going to things alone.

But I wanted to share it with someone because I knew it was going to be a day that would actually change my life.  See above about finding God and Chance.  I wasn’t wrong.

My friend T met me there, and I was in the beer line when Kanye showed up for a surprise set.  He’s texting me, people are running and screaming, and I’m like, “y’all this beer line just got short as fuck, and Kanye ain’t gonna do one song and quit, so I’ll wait.”  I was right.  Kanye was amazing.  Those tickets were $51 (with the bullshit ticketmaster fees), and GODDAMN I COULD HAVE LEFT THEN AND GOT MY MONEY’S WORTH.

2Chainz with Lil Jon might have been first, but then John Legend came out.  AND COMMON JOINED HIM ON STAGE AND WE HELD UP OUR FISTS AND PROMISED TO FIGHT FOR BLACK LIVES BECAUSE THEY MATTER.  This wasn’t trite bullshit, though it may seem that way.  I was tired and ready to go home but SO EXCITED BECAUSE IT WASN’T OVER YET.  Alicia was coming on you guys.

I’m 40 years old, and I think I’ve got myself figured mostly out, But when Alicia came on, I had tears running down my face as I screamed out the lyrics to “No One.” No one could get in the way of what I was feeling, and my friend T and I kept looking at each other and asking “Is this really happening?”  It was.  And that girl was ON FIRE.

We still had one more act to go.  Chance.  I will admit I was a little confused about the puppets at first, but Carlos the Lion is now my second favorite puppet ever (Snuffy is forever my #1).  He basically performed the entirety of Coloring Book, and I. Found. God.  I’m not saying I became a true believer, but it brought God back into my life.

I tried to get you to go with me.  Yes, you, you who turned me down because you don’t like rap music. Don’t doubt me on music all the time, friends. I know what I’m talking about every now and again.

I went to MCD.  Are you ready, for your blessings. I AM READY.

Are you ready, for YOUR MIRACLE. I’m not so sure about this because sometimes I’m still ready for it all to be over.  I can’t lie to y’all at this point.

11. when you take my call

I know people hate talking on the phone.  I get it, but when I’m getting close to or in a full manic episode? I need to talk to someone.  This is complicated.

I don’t call you if I just want to chat.  I know calling people is taboo.  I’m not stupid.  And I’d usually rather crawl into a pillow fort and talk to nobody for weeks.  When you take my call, it eases my soul from the get go, just knowing that someone still cares that I’m here.

I don’t usually want to talk to you either, but sometimes. Well, sometimes I just need to hear a voice so I know it’s okay to stay here.

12.Have you ever tried to list 13 things you love? 13 people?

I love you. Don’t doubt me when I tell you this, but also please know that I don’t trust you, not yet, maybe not ever. I challenge you to give me 13 reasons why you’ve stayed, even if you’ve never considered leaving.

13. You must have lost your marbles. You always were so forgetful. In a hurry.

Every single day, there’s a voice in the corner of my brain telling me today is the day, that nobody actually cares, that nobody will really remember me if I’m gone. That you might even be relieved if today is the day.

Then I start thinking about my 13 reasons why I haven’t died by suicide. Sunshine, music, beaches, laughing, and even crying when it gets too hard. 

Don’t forget the happy thoughts.

I will write more love letters to you, but I’m tired, and I’ve already told you more than I’m comfortable with, so I’ll leave you with this.