Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Grown Up Sad

A few weeks ago shit was really starting to get to me: work stresses, dating, money, one of the windows in my car wasn't rolling up, I had a repeat of the button incident with yet another pair of shorts (followed by a trip to the scale with less than ideal results), my internet connection was getting super unreliable (just seeing the word "buffering" makes me feel a little stabby), and I was listening to way too much Patty Griffin. It was getting to be a bit too much. I realized I was at a breaking point when I found myself full on crying during a trailer for Free Willy 4: Escape From Pirates Cove starring Bindi Irwin.

My Life.
I get this way from time to time. Sad, and completely irrational about it. It usually happens every few months, and the solution is to just stay home one night and have what I refer to as "Wallow Night." The exact events vary each time I do it, but the theme of the night is always the same. I embrace the sadness, let it take over for one night, purge it from my system, and get the hell over it.

While elbow deep in a family sized bag of cheesy popcorn, I got to thinking about how I deal with my feelings, and how much it has changed as I've grown up. While cleaning out my closet in preparation for "The Desk", I found my journal from my Freshman and Sophomore years of college. The contents kind of terrified me. It reminded me of just how low I'd been at that time.

I don't think I was going through anything that every other young gay kid, freshly out on their own wasn't also going through, but I definitely didn't know how to deal with it in a healthy way. I was sullen, I took it out on my friends, and I was self-destructive. Upon finding the journal, I thought it would be fun to post pictures of the entries to show how crazy and irrational I had been, after reading them I realized that it wasn't funny at all. I had been in a dark place, and the reminder of it was shocking. I was suddenly very grateful that I came out unscathed.

I remember it taking awhile to get to the point where having a bad week didn't feel like the world was ending. I'm sure there were many things that added up to me being able to deal, but there was one moment that I remember as a turning point. My computer was broken, and I was using a friend's while it was getting repaired. A string of Facebook messages had been left up, and I noticed my name on one of them. I opened it and found a group message pertaining to my birthday party. The message started with, "Hey everyone, I know Chris hasn't necessarily been a ton of fun to be around lately, but that's why we've got to make this birthday a fun one."

That was the moment that I realized just how amazing my friends are (seriously. WAY better than yours). I realized that I have a group of supporters around me that will be there for me no matter what, even when I'm behaving like a self centered, moody, little bitch (especially then). So my sad months turned into sad weeks, which became sad days, and eventually I was able to get it down to a night that I could reasonably schedule six hours to sit in a Snuggie, with the lights dimmed, and have some feelings.

My "Wallow Nights" have sort of become a "Greatest Hits" version of the dark times. I know what works, and I've created a formula that is close to 100% effective.

1. Red Wine 

I'm not really sure what it is, but red wine has always been sad wine in my mind (something to do with the purple stained teeth when you're done). I stop and get two bottles on the way home from work, the cheaper the better. I uncork the first bottle pretty much immediately after getting home (but usually start feeling guilty about drinking alone and call it quits when I finish it).

2. Sad TV

I've tried movies, but it takes so much longer to get to the payoff when watching The Bridges of Madison County or Brokeback Mountain. I've got shit to do tonight. I need to get this done and move on. I've got a few tried and true, go-to episodes of my favorite shows that hit the sadness fast and hard.

The Buffy Prom Episode

The Veronica Mars Prom Episode

The Dawson's Creek Prom Episode

And now I'm thinking maybe there are some issues that I need to unpack and deal with...

3. Sad Music

I've always thought my taste in music was pretty good, albeit a little melancholy. I adore Patty Griffin, Aimee Mann, Lissie, Greg Laswell, and pretty much anyone else who knows how to write a sad song. It's not these songs that I turn to on "Wallow Night," however. I go for the real awful stuff. Songs that have nothing to do with what I'm going through usually, but nonetheless just speak to me in the moment. 

One night, for instance, I walked around my apartment with a glass of wine in my hand singing Hopelessly Devoted from the Grease Soundtrack for probably a good solid 45 minutes. Everytime by Britney Spears is another favorite. I also have a weird thing about Cruise, the Florida Georgia Line feat. Nelly remix. It makes me cry every time I hear it (no, seriously).

I tried to break this habit last time and create a go-to Spotify "Sad Songs" Playlist.

F#%! it. Good enough.
4. The Internet

There's all kinds of things available on the internet when you're feeling bad about yourself. A favorite is Thought Catalog. Lots of overwrought essays by other twenty somethings who somehow just get it when I'm sad. 

YouTube is also positively brimming with sadness if you know where to look. I hesitate to even share the video I frequent when sad, because it's quite possibly the most depressing thing in the world. It's called The Existential Crisis of a Penguin, and you can see it...if you really want to...against my It's about a penguin who leaves the pack and wanders towards the mountains by itself, knowing that it will mean his inevitable demise. Shit, man.

I also one time Googled "Adele Crying." I don't know why I did it, but oh boy do I regret it.

5. That other bottle of wine

Aww, screw it.

6. Junk Food

I don't keep a ton of junk food in the house. Not because I don't buy it, but because I can't not eat it, so it lasts about twenty minutes after I get it home. So I usually have to walk over to HyVee at this point. I'm concerned that the cashiers at the HyVee across the street are starting to recognize me. I'm concerned because I'm not sure that they've seen me with my hair brushed, possibly ever. 

A few months ago I was in there buying a frozen pizza, a giant chocolate bar, and a bag of off brand Doritos. I was wearing paint stained athletic shorts, a promotional True Blood t-shirt that I'd gotten for free with the DVD set, and flip flops from 2005. When I got to the checkout the cashier looked at me, and with a giant grin he asked me, "So, any big plans for the night?" 

7. Realization

At some point (usually around one or two in the morning), after exhausting myself emotionally, annoying my neighbors with the same song on repeat, and staining my teeth purple and my fingers orange, it occurs to me that I don't even really remember why I was upset in the first place. 

Or maybe that's just a blackout.

Maybe it's all a little unhealthy, and maybe I should figure out a better way to deal with my feelings, but I just don't really want to. I actually kind of love "Wallow Night." There's something super liberating about not feeling bad about accepting that sometimes life can kick your ass. And by giving myself one night to get it all out without guilt, I'm not allowing sadness to own me.

And seriously, being in a "What the f#%! is wrong with that guy?!" good mood is just more fun. 

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