If there is one thing I have always known about myself, it is this: I need to be able to feel my feelings. Much like Madonna, I need to express myself. This is why I write, why I create, why I perform. All of these things are an expression of my thoughts, my feelings, my heart. Sometimes it comes out in the form of a stand-up comedy routine, or a silly Youtube video, or a short play, a poem, a song, or something much more fluid that you can’t really put a title on it. To me; the deepest thoughts that are inside of our souls are what make us who we are. To take those away from someone is just about the worst thing I can ever think of.
This is why I never got into drinking or doing drugs. Even 25 years ago, back in high school and college, I would drink now and then, but never anything crazy. While most of my friends were either getting high or making plans on the best way to “get wasted” on a Friday night, I was always the one who tagged along and stayed sober. I never saw the point in it. Most people act like complete assholes when they are drunk, and most people are complete bores when they are high. They are bores who are under the false impression that they are interesting. The few times I tried pot when I was younger; I felt paranoid, sick to my stomach, and just generally awful. The handful of times I drank too much in college; it made me super emotional, clingy, and sleepy. I never understood the purpose or the “fun” in going out with the specific intention of getting drunk. “Dude, we’re gonna get soooooo wasted, man!” is a sentence that confuses me and makes me roll my eyes like some out of touch grandmother.
But here is the real issue … I like to have control. When you drink or take drugs, you lose control. I do not like that feeling. To tell you the truth, the idea of not remembering something I did or said, or of not feeling like myself due to a chemically-induced evening, scares the shit out of me. There are so many things in life we cannot control. Like waking up one morning to your husband being dead. I had no control over that. It just happened. So why on earth would I want to give up the control over my own mind and body by pouring alcohol and chemicals into it? Why would I want my thoughts to be altered or numbed or just … gone? Some people want that. Some people want to escape the pain, and those people don’t understand that I need to feel whatever the hell I am going to feel. I need to feel like shit and laugh and cry and scream and punch the walls and write and tell jokes and curse profusely and bang my fists on my steering wheel and say goodnight to my dead husband and be exhausted and feel hopeless and want to die. It is the wanting to die and then getting through that, to see the next moment, that makes me feel alive. How can you ever feel joy again if you don’t feel the pain? How can you grieve if you are hiding your feelings in a bottle? You can’t. But everybody wants you to.
People are so quick and willing to push medication or alcohol on you when you are grieving. “Have a glass of wine”, people keep telling me. “It will take your mind off things, relax you.” No it wont. I hate wine. It is not relaxing. It gives me a splitting headache. “If you dont start feeling better soon, you should think about going on medication. Something to help level out your emotions.” No! I don’t want to level out anything. I want to feel it. Why are people so afraid of intense sadness? Why does everyone feel the need to put a timeline on my feelings and what’s inside my heart? Why are some people so terrified of total, brutal honesty? It has been suggested to me by some that perhaps I shouldn’t always post such gut-wrenching, sad thoughts or status updates on Facebook. Some have eluded to the idea that people don’t want to be reminded every two seconds of my loss. Other people worry about me when I post something “sad” publically; as if it’s somehow strange that I would be feeling an intense range of emotions after MY FUCKING HUSBAND DIED!!!!!!!
I don’t understand this thought process. I am not going to censor myself, or only post “positive” things. If I am feeling positive, I will say so. If I am feeling like shit, I will say that too. Let everyone else on earth continue to deal with grief in “steps” and “process” and “journey” and “paths.” That is not for me. For me, it is messy and confusing and horrible and inconceivable and like an elephant lying on your back. I haven’t read one book about grief, or seen one movie, or one anything, that totally gets it right, or that is 100% honest like I am. I will make it my job to be brutally honest about what this is really like. I am not going to sugarcoat it, or say only what people think I should say, or keep silent because it makes others uncomfortable. No. Fuck that. I’m sorry that you are uncomfortable for a few minutes out of your day. This is my life. My life is uncomfortable. I will not pretend otherwise because society thinks it’s better for me to just numb it or take a pill or have a drink because that is what makes them feel better. It will never be better. It will only be different. I am here to tell the truth. This will be the one book on earth that tells you the truth. If I dont tell the truth, why write anything at all? Why be alive?
Last night I saw a local NJ production of the rock musical Next to Normal. My friend Debra played the lead role of Diana, and she was absolutely brilliant. She has one of those singing voices where you just listen to her and start to tear up. Not because you are sad, but because the sound is that beautiful. Only a few voices make me tear up that way. Barbara Streisand. Burnadette Peters. And my friend Debra. The show won all kinds of Tony Awards on Broadway in 2009, and it’s about a wife and mother who is bipolar; and what happens when her son dies; and how it affects the entire family. She is sent to therapy immediately, and put on several drugs to help her cope. The play is very powerful, and poses the question “what is worse; the symptom or the cure?”, and “Who is the crazy one? The patient, or the doctors who keep shutting her off from her own feelings?” The only medication I have taken since this whole thing happened has been Tylenol PM, to help me sleep. I dont even like taking that, because it makes me so damn groggy that I dont feel like myself.
I will not medicate my emotions. I will not stuff them into a box or fit them into some timeline that other people find appropriate. I will just be me; because really; in the end; what else do I have left? If I lose myself and become a shell of nothingness; then there is no reason to be alive.
Please allow me to feel like shit, so that I can stay alive.