This is Us, and how It Was Me

The show that has flushed all of America’s tear ducts has a storyline, a scene, or a character that brings back memories for everyone who watches it. Maybe those memories for you are ones of happy bickering with siblings, falling in love, and familial reconciliation— however, the memories for me (and for some of you reading, I suspect) are much more somber.

When I was 16, my biological father came cascading into my life via a newly created Facebook account. At the time, he told me he was newly sober and living at a VA facility in White City, Oregon. I rolled my eyes… I’d heard it before. Emails, drunken phone calls, and birthday cards every few years punctuated my childhood. Tales (mostly lies) about how fun and how glamorous his life was found themselves to me every few months, and then I wouldn’t hear from him for a year or two. After the age of five, I stopped seeing him as my dad and more of a strange cross-country uncle that I had in my life. When he friend requested me, I told my mom “hmm, Tim has a Facebook. Cool. Maybe I’ll get more updates.”

When I was 17, I got a message following message:

“Hi sweetie…went thru ruptured appendix surgery…biopsy came back, doctor called me this morning letting me know i have cancer…I know i haven’t been there for you & glad joey was able to take the roll.  Anyways, i go under the knife thursday noon. If they can’t get it all…im calling it a wrap..i dont want to live w/out quality of life (so to speak) But want to make sure i got all your correct info, so you can get my insurance policy monies. I’m lucky to have such a beautiful daughter 🙂 and I wish you all the best.  Love ya 🙂  If you want to call…”

My. heart. sunk. He had just celebrated 1 year of sobriety, and I had been ignoring his messages for months. I was a senior in high school, and too busy to be bothered by him. I walked out to my parent’s front porch and called him and told him I was going to visit him in Oregon, and asked him 1,000,000 questions. He told me I didn’t have to come, and not to waste my money. I told him I’d hold off on the visit but that I would eventually come out there whether or not he wanted me to. One month later surgeons tried to go in and get the rest of the cancer, but much to their frustration, it had already metastasized to every major organ in his abdomen. He was officially terminal.

The doctors said he had months at best, so I dropped everything and booked a flight to Oregon for the next week. Five days after turning eighteen, I flew cross-country to meet a man and his extended family that I hadn’t seen since I was in diapers. We had a visit, his sister Tami showed me the Oregon countryside, and we all fully expected him to die within the month. We were wrong. I got to make several more trips out west to see his family as his cancer dragged on for two more years. Tim went through 11 rounds of chemotherapy before finally succumbing to cancer without any family present in the VA domiciliary infirmary surrounded by who I hope were his favorite nurses.

The last visit we had he couldn’t leave his bed except for to sneak cigarettes outside of his room on his short walks. His bones looked like they wanted to poke through his skin, and I was honestly afraid to hug him too tight for fear of rupturing his stomach because his tumors had taken over his whole body. I still lie awake some nights still with visions of his frail body clutching his walker as I drove away in a borrowed car on my way back to the airport.

He died over Fall Break my Junior year. My wonderful dad came to get me and drove me back to Virginia and I made arrangements for his cremation, burial, and stressed for weeks as to how I was going to pay off the remainder of the balance that was left at the end of it all. I picked out his epitaph sitting in one of my psychology classes and fought to keep the debt from going to collections. I didn’t go to the funeral, and I still haven’t been to Oregon since. He’s buried in the National Cemetery just miles from Crater Lake (one of the most serene places on Earth) and one day I’d like to go see that headstone I anguished over. I like to think Tim’s final resting place is symbolic of the peace he now feels— peace from addiction, from cancer, from never feeling like he was good enough.

While we didn’t have meaningful interactions with one another until I was nearly an adult, he changed me. I’m still not sure if I’m better off for having gotten to know him in his twilight hours only to lose him, but I know that I don’t regret it. He didn’t raise me, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t my father, and no matter the mistakes we make trying to navigate being human in this world, everyone deserves to be loved in the final hours. He was an amazing man— witty, charming, and kind. Everyone who spent the last years of his life with him misses him dearly, and I loved him. I have his huge forehead, and sarcastic morbid sense of humor. Not to brag, but he said over and over again how proud he was of me and how I was the best thing he ever did. It’s been three years, and I’m still processing the entire ordeal, and I’ll likely continue to evolve my feelings on the subject.

All of that being said, THIS IS US IS MAKING ME CRY SO MUCH. I don’t want to spoil the show, but there’s a storyline there that hits way too close to home. NOT COOL NBC. But honestly, I’m thankful. It’s reminded me that I’ve made it so far since going through Tim’s death, and reminded me to live purposefully in the wake of loss. Does anyone else have any crazy TV related emotional trauma right now?

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Anxiety and Obsession

When I was young, I was famous for pushing the limit in regards to things which excited me. Be it something I wanted from the store, somewhere I wanted to go, or something I wanted to do– I was relentless. I’d ask over and over and over again until my parents, grandparents, friends, and teachers were ready to strangle me. I learned quickly to justify things I wanted to do in hopes it would allow them to realize the urgency behind my wishes. I can often feel myself becoming annoying and unbearable, but I can’t seem to stop myself from “beating a dead horse.”

Thinking back, I wasn’t trying to manipulate them into giving me what I wanted from a sense of deservedness, but because getting where I wanted to go, or getting the item I was pining for was the only thing to relieve the compulsion I was feeling. I don’t know now if I was spoiled, or what caused me to become this way– all I know is that I’ve been living for over 20 years now and still give in to every obsession that plagues me.

My most recent realization is that my obsessive tendencies go hand in hand with my anxiety– I convince myself that getting something new, or going somewhere fun, or doing something different will make my life better. For example, I’ll read on the internet that taking probiotics and weight loss seem to be correlated. For the next 24 hours, I’ll do nothing but read about types of probiotics, success stories, reviews, dosing, and price. Within a day of the beginning of my obsession I will possess a probiotic and the moment I get what I’ve been compulsively reading about I’ll feel sweet relief–almost a sort of high. It’s not materialism, it’s a temporary treatment for my anxiety.

I think when I’m busy obsessing over a show, product, or place I find less time to worry about things that are really bothering me: money, health, missing my family, the state of the country, how dirty my apartment is, etc. The grand distraction works, but also doesn’t always benefit me.

Perhaps when I feel a new obsession coming on, I ought to pause and take a moment and take a small step toward tackling a stressor that’s actually making me anxious. For example, right now instead of online shopping for new makeup I should organize all of the monthly bills that I have due this week and make a plan to get them paid. Either way I’ll feel better about my life, but by focusing on a real problem I’ll be doing my small part to ease my anxiety at the source.

Will I do that though? Probably not. I’ll probably continue to obsess and worry myself and others to death about meaningless things, because that’s my nature. However, realizing this about myself and others will hopefully allow all of us to understand each other better.

tl;dr: Next time someone you love is relentlessly bugging you about something they want, somewhere they want to go, or someone they want to see– give them grace. See it as an outward expression of anxiety. Help them see that you understand that you can’t stop talking about it, and try to help them relax. They’ll thank you later.

 

Sorry I Can’t Stop Complaining About Trump

Hello, it’s me: your friendly neighborhood left-leaning democrat. I am the one who doesn’t think the Hillary memes are funny anymore, and who LOSES MY MIND SOMETIMES ON TWITTER over current events. Here are my thoughts:

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Today at work I was literally pleaded with by a new coworker to stop talking about politics. I actually pretty often find myself unable to shut my mouth regarding my grievances with the government, even when I’m completely aware that everyone around me is becoming uncomfortable because they support what I’m condemning or vice versa. To some, I’m sure I appear to be a sore loser who can’t stop until everyone agrees with me. I think I really just want to be truly heard.

As much as it pains me to say, I’m currently wishing that I was among the Americans celebrating the current administrations actions and words. Some people I know are blissfully going along with their day to day lives feeling safe and represented in the interests of our country. However, on the left over here all I want is to go one day without reading a headline about America that absolutely gives me anxiety— real heart racing, helpless, anxiety.

All of that being said, if you’re someone reading this and finding yourself ready to comment something rude about my beliefs, please know that I’m talking to you

The average Trump Supporters I speak to on a daily basis make fun of people like me— the ones who are genuinely panicking about our futures. Personally, I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression, which in my case leads to negative thoughts, obsession, and the occasional (or in my case frequent) existential dread. The headlines currently running about our government—you know the scary ones that reveal inconsistency and rushed decisions? Those aren’t just “I told you so” reminders for me— they’re warning signs. Signs that tell me I was right to worry during election season and things are only going to get worse. I lie awake at night and fear that my rights as a woman will be reduced, or that my LGBT and black friends lives will be valued less than their white neighbors, or that the poor and disenfranchised won’t have access to quality medical care, or that immigrants will be shunned from the USA because of the country listed on their birth certificate (I could go on but you get the point). Last month, I called my mom three times at work worrying that I would lose my health insurance. I can’t stop waking my boyfriend up at 6am to panic to him about the latest briefing or statement from a foreign power. While I do find myself at times able make jokes about the president, it’s not all some cute joke to me anymore and I’m not just throwing a fit. I’m terrified and my psyche is being affected by the Office of the President.

The worst part of all of this is that whenever I express these anxieties online and in person to those around me, I’m typically met with mockery. Generally, the people who are comfortable with this administration and think my anxious thoughts are ridiculous do nothing to comfort me. They can only seem to find names to call me, like “snowflake” and “liberal crybaby” (but we can discuss that moral failure later). I’m not saying my opinions and political beliefs can be swayed (or that my opinions are the only right ones)— because my mind is already made up about this current chapter of American politics. However, I am suggesting that if pride was put aside and occasionally my neighbors were able to understand my anxieties (or at least try to understand) our political conversation would be much more productive, and frankly, people like me who are struggling to accept what’s happening around us would be a lot more mentally healthy.

So if you are someone who feels tempted to type something sarcastic after reading paragraph one and two of this blurb, please consider the following: some of us aren’t just annoyed that we didn’t get our way, and for some of us this isn’t just a contest. Our way of life and our dreams lost in this election, and because of that, we’re now struggling to find our place in this new America you love so much. Thanks for reading.