Sometimes I think I have mental health issues and then I think, Oh, Jill, you’re just trying to fit in. But then A. goes and tries to change our seats at the opera to include an aisle seat (in case a quick escape is needed) because “the person I’m going with has social anxiety”, which isn’t totally true.
“Why couldn’t you have told them that I just have freakishly long legs,” I said to A. when he told me what he’d said.
Now I’m afraid the person who gave us comps to the opera thinks I don’t bathe and that I sit at home playing Candy Crush all day with my Labradoodle. This is rather outrageous as I don’t even know what Candy Crush is or what a Labradoodle looks like. Now, if I meet her I’m going to have to be charming and gregarious so she knows A. is a liar, even if he lied for my own good. Then I’m going to tell her it was kind of her to give him an aisle seat in case he needs to change his colostomy bag.
The aisle seat is a precaution because two days ago I blacked out at a play. I’m told another guy blacked out at an earlier performance. He went down during a rather bloody scene (dude’s obviously never had a heavy period before) and they actually had to stop the show. I, however, remained elegantly seated when I blacked out. I knew I was in danger because of the blurry vision, dizziness, and cold sweat, so I arranged myself like Le Penseur in the hopes that I wouldn’t flop onto the person in front of me like a large, dead fish. If anyone noticed, they would assume I was thinking deeply about the themes of the piece—or maybe listening closely so as not to miss a word. So, I won that little game of passing-out-at-the-theatre that the other guy didn’t even know we were playing.
Admittedly, I did blackout during a strangulation scene, but there was, to my mind, no connection between the content and my physical action. I wasn’t even thinking about that time in grade four when Ms. Winterbottom—the same teacher who told us there was no Santa and held a kid out a second storey window—put her hands around my neck hard enough to leave marks.
The last time I blacked out was in another black box theatre. The play was ironically (for me) named You Should have Stayed Home. I’d say that Canadian Theatre is my trigger (and would also like to point out that “blackout” is a theatrical term), except that these weren’t the kinds of plays that should illicit such a response. No pet rock got humped and no one did a serious interpretive dance with a barbecued duck. (Side note: the most recent play, Butcher—set pictured above—is still on in Toronto. See it if you can because it’s a thrilling play by a brilliant friend and the only reason I didn’t give it a standing ovation like everyone else is that I was too dizzy to stand up.)
I know you’re thinking at this point that I probably have flesh eating disease, because I’m pretty sure that people with flesh eating disease blackout all the time. But I don’t. I have Hashimoto’s.
Now you might be wondering, What does she have of Hashimoto’s? His pencil bag? Well no, I have his autoimmune thyroid disease, which he didn’t even have. He just named it after himself because he discovered it (it didn’t exist before him, I guess, so it’s his fault). Can you imagine if doctors and scientists all had the same kind of hubris? Hello, I’m Dr. Gonorrhea. This won’t hurt a bit. I’m just going to put it in.
Careful readers may remember me mentioning Hashimoto’s before. I always torture myself before bringing it up because I don’t want to be typecast as the gal with a chronic illness. Also, most of the time I feel totally fine. Or my version of fine, which is still on the plump and pale side—and, by the way, totally contradicts the image I have in my head of myself as a girlie, yet svelte she-woman who can toss petite people around (not being coordinated enough to juggle them).
I’ve also never wanted to write misery lit. I’m all for sharing the human experience but I’ve never wanted to actually write something as depressing as I sometimes feel. I don’t want to be The Hashimoto's Writer.
Anyway, one of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s is anxiety, so I guess I really do have mental health issues sometimes. It’s way more body-based than thought-based, which means I can have something resembling an extreme panic attack even when things are going well. Same goes for depression. So, blacking out and being bummed out is a symptom of a flare-up. They are symptoms that I have to manage until it goes away.
Recently, I watched a YouTube video of a blogger named Meredith Bland who, due to a birth defect, has nubs for fingers on one hand. I liked the “9 Awesome Things About Having a Physical Disability” that she read out. For instance:
Dear supervisor, I apologize for calling my co-worker Brad an ‘insufferable miserable cock-wielding nightmare.’ I’m afraid my lack of limb got the better of me today. It won’t happen again.
It’s easy to ID the bad guys. Basically, if someone screams or can’t stop staring when they see my disability, they go into a certain box. And in that box, I am liable to stroke their faces gently with my nubs, or perhaps see if I can stick just the tip of one into their mouths.
Sometimes—like when preparing to go to the opera when experiencing a flare-up—I wish Hashimoto’s was visible, like Meredith Bland’s nubs. Then, people would understand immediately that the condition is physical and not just willful (which sadly, is how a lot of people view things like anxiety). It’s lonely having an invisible illness. It’s particularly lonely when it’s a disease that takes so long to explain. I can’t just magically wave my little stumps. As with anything, the less we talk about it, the more we feel alone. So this is for anyone who’s dealing with their own invisible illness (or feelings). I’m having a Carole King moment and I want to say, you’ve got a friend.
Now, to get A. to forward this to the woman from the opera.
THERE, THERE // He Chose You
The other day my boyfriend and I were decluttering and sorting through boxes looking for things to get rid of. He opened a box of his things and quickly put a small journal into a bag of things we were keeping. Being as nosy as I am, I asked what it was and he said it was a “Love Book”, which he then explained was a book his ex-girlfriend had given him listing the reasons why she loved him. I shrugged it off as no big deal but for the rest of the day I was a bit distant. It’s been a few days since I discovered the book but I can’t seem to get over it. I’m annoyed that he kept it (even though I understand why) and can’t stop wondering what it says. Should I bring it up and say it bothers me? Should I burn the book while he’s at work? Is it normal to be this annoyed about something from the past? Please help!!!
~ Weirdly Jealous
Dear Weirdly Jealous,
You wrote to me just over a couple of weeks ago, so I hope I’m not too late. I hope you haven’t accidentally burned down your home while setting fire to your boyfriend’s “Love Book”.
Mr. Margo—otherwise known as A.—and I have been together for nearly seven years and spend almost all our time together (stay-at-home writers that we are). We never get a chance to be jealous of anyone these days, which is why we (mostly) pretend we’re jealous of Daisy and Rudy.
Daisy is a lumpy synthetic feather pillow. A. likes to sleep with her in his arms. Many a time I have gone to snuggle up to him only to find Daisy in my way, which means I often punt her onto the floor and a groggy A. will half-heartedly yell, “Hey!”
Once, I got up in the middle of the night to pee and came back to reclaim my spot as the little spoon only to find that Daisy had already taken my place and A. was gently snoring. I must’ve made a noise of protest because A. sleepily reached under the duvet, presumably to remove Daisy, only to pull out just her flimsy pillowcase. Confused, he reached back in and pulled out Daisy, naked as the day she was stuffed. “What were you doing with Daisy?” I said accusingly.
Other things I’ve said about Daisy:
You love Daisy more than you love me.
You only love Daisy because she doesn’t talk to you while you’re trying to read.
I hate Daisy.
What’s Daisy got that I don’t got?
Daisy’s a lazy, lumpy asshole.
I’m gonna cut that bitch.
Rudy, on the other hand, is a corgi. He belongs to a lovely acquaintance who posts photos of him on Facebook. I’m not a dog person per se, but there is something about Rudy—his bandana and cowboy hat, his intelligent stare—that has won my heart. When he comes up in my feed I apparently make a certain sound that prompts A. to humph and say, “You must be looking at your other boyfriend Rudy. And in our bed!”
Other things A. has said about Rudy:
He’s like Tom Cruise. I know he looks nice in photos but if you met him in real life you’d be shocked by how short he is.
Sure he wears a cowboy hat, but can he ride a horse?
If you think Rudy’s so hot why don’t you move in with him?
Do Rudy’s parents know you’re creeping on him?
I bet you he poops on the carpet. When was the last time I did that?
He could never love you like I love you.
Now, why am I telling you this rather private and kind of gross-if-you’re-not-us story? Because in love, be it real jealousy or mock jealousy, the core issue remains the same. We want to know that we are the chosen one, the special one, the best one, the safe one, the most loved one. So we threaten to harm a pillow or mock a dog rocking a stylish hat to test that love. To make sure it’s really there. As A. once wrote in a play: “A love that is never tested is never real.”
All of your reactions to the “Love Book” seem completely “normal” to me, Weirdly Jealous. Dealing with the past and the fact that there were others who loved our love before us can be awkward. Especially if you try to imagine it. My advice? Don’t. Don’t try to imagine what this ex loved about your boyfriend. Leave it where it is, in the past, in that book.
Just because your boyfriend is holding onto the book, doesn’t mean he’s holding onto the past. Maybe for him to throw it away would feel like throwing a piece of himself away and to do so would feel like a betrayal to that past self. Sometimes we need to keep reminders of who we once were and often we feel private about it (so no snooping).
The thing you need to remember is that you are his chosen one. He’s with you, decluttering the home you share—which some would see as good a sign as any of his commitment to you.
If you need to bring it up, if you need to mildly test, I suggest you do it by taking responsibility for your own feelings. He shouldn’t be made to feel like he did something wrong because he didn’t. Try something like this:
I felt weird about that ‘Love Book’ from your ex-girlfriend. Even though I understand intellectually why you’d want to keep it, I had a surprising emotional reaction to it that I had to process. If you noticed me being distant, that’s why. It’s strange to think that before we knew each other there were other people in our lives who loved us so intimately, isn’t it? In my next life, I’m totally going to marry a virgin—although I’ll probably still sleep around—but still, I’m glad we have each other in this life.
Chances are he’ll empathize and give you his reassurance, so you won’t need mine. If not, shred his pillow.
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THREE THINGS // Grab Bag
This issue’s Three Things is more of a grab bag than a themed list. The commonality is the ability of these things to distract me when I should be doing other things. If you need to get away from the real world too, these things will have you covered.
1 // And then that one time on twitter we all just became human and I laughed until I gave myself a headache.
The Bloggess a.k.a. Jenny Lawson, bestselling author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy, Tweeted an embarrassing moment the other night. Her followers began responding with their own cringey moments. So for example, had I contributed I might have said: Once, as a recently lapsed vegetarian, I asked a friend what animal corned beef came from. Or: An acquaintance, with the most pained look, offered me condolences re my dead boyfriend. I blurted, "It’s OK. He had it coming."
(You can also visit Lawson’s Twitter page to read even more Tweets than are captured in her blog post.)
2 // Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table
A Tumblr of attractive photos in which interior design clichés and tropes are mocked with captions like: “Fuck your antlers.” “Fuck your giant wall word.” “Fuck your fireplace full of books.” “Fuck your open air terrarium with tiny animal figurines.”
3 // Scrabble Facebook App
If you love Scrabble you have to get the official Facebook app. Look for me if you want to play a game, or send me a note and tell me you want to play. We can waste hours. Plus it’s legal to use the dictionary to troll for words, so your vocabulary will expand to include words that you will never be able to use in a sentence like “ripieni” and “xi”.