Grim indeed.


My mental heath is shit lately. Coming out of a depressive episode now that lasted about three months and in that time, I learned that I have Bipolar I, which has been causing me great distress since long before I realized what was going on.

My moods, like the river, are erratic. My moods, like the river, change drastically with the seasons. My moods, like the river, are uninhabitable for others for half the year. My moods, like the river, can drown the unprepared. My moods, like the river, flood into parts of life they aren’t supposed to touch.

I like the river because I’m also chaotic. I’m unpredictable. My changes come without warning. I seem fun from a distance but lurking in my waters is a recipe for trouble. I relate to this river. I feel her on a deep level. And for that reason, I don’t mess with her. I know what she’s capable of. I don’t tempt fate.

The river has many moods. Mostly mean. Even when she seems calm, she’s not. She’s just waiting to suck her next victim under, and I know that’s what many think when they think of me. They look from afar but they don’t get too close. I don’t blame them.

I wish that, like the river, I didn’t owe any reasoning for my changing moods. I wish people just knew when they looked at me that I‘d be liable to change course, change intensity. I wish, like the river, I wouldn’t have constantly apologize for these changes. That I could embody change in all it’s uncertainty and be accepted that way. But people expect consistency if you aren’t a river, even if I insist that I am. People want you to act like they do, even if you aren’t them. They want you to be slow, predictable, measurable. I am none of those things.

I’m a raging current and, like the river, if you try to tame me, I act out. I flood over. I destroy. Some things aren’t meant to be tamed or even understood. They are just meant to be as they are, imperfect and wild. Wild. Unrelenting. Immeasurable. Inconsistent. You read these words and you have judgments about them, don’t you? But are any really “bad”? Is it bad to defy? Is it wrong to veer off course?

I like the river because I relate to her and I’ve felt equally as misunderstood. I like the river because my depths also hold the casualties of my moods. I like her because, frankly, she’s beautiful, and endlessly intricate and complex. She’s more questions than answers, wrong answers, more questions.

I am sorry I’m not less like a river and more like a rock. I wasn’t made solid. I wasn’t made stagnant. I was made to rage and twist and flood and curve.

And I think that’s okay. You want stagnancy, swim in a pond. You want solidity, collect rocks. You want straight lines, find a stick. There should be a place for everyone. There is in nature. Nature doesn’t discriminate between types. It makes room for all.

I sit at the banks of the river and feel at home. Cradled. Understood. No words necessary. No excuses. No explanations. Home.

Myths of Men

* This essay was originally published on Lunch Ticket, Antioch University Los Angeles’ student-run literary journal. Check out our website for handpicked fiction, poetry, translation, memoir, and more.

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Myths of Men

I am a myth-maker; I make myths of men. My journals and essays and mental spaces are filled with names like Jared, Jeter, and Jefferson, all of them monsters I tried to tame with a pen. My version of myth-making is a form of self-deception. I don’t do this on purpose. It’s a defective coping mechanism—a way to withstand unbearable situations, like drinking to warm yourself on a cold night. You may fool your brain into thinking your body is warm, but it doesn’t stop your body from developing frostbite. These myths may pacify my terror around abusers, but they don’t stop the abuse.

This is where the perennial truth versus fact debate in creative nonfiction gets even more complicated. What happens when I feel like I’m telling the truth, but it turns out to be a lie? What if the facts are correct, I just left some out? What if I feel just as duped as the reader when the truth reveals itself? Continue reading

Reader Question: Is Sex Work Empowering or Degrading?

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Last night, I invited y’all to suggest topics or questions for blog posts via my contact page. The first question landed in my inbox this morning. It’s a complicated one.

Rebecca H. writes:

“My question to you and one I’ve struggled with in the past is the line between feeling gorgeous and sexually empowered and the feelings of being a vessel men use and abuse for their own gain . . . In the U.K., stripping is one of those ever growing things and more and more clubs and bars are opening. It’s one of those topics that most women cannot agree on. Is this degrading or are we showing how strong and beautiful we are by getting naked for paying men?”

This is a difficult question to answer because it’s one that must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. There’s no single opinion about sex work among sex workers. Our stories and experiences are too varied. Some people are forced into sex work. Many enter the industry by choice. Others do so out of desperation. And these factors are just the tip of the iceberg. Sex work comes in a multitude of forms — stripping, fetish work, camming, prostitution, the list goes on — which makes it impossible to pin down.

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One Year Sober! An Extremely Unofficial Guide to My (Anti-)Program

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2012: alcoholism at its worst.

My sober date is September 23rd, which, coincidentally, is also my middle brother’s birthday. Zach has always been my harshest critic.

On Christmas Day, 2012, Zach staged an informal intervention in our Chicago living room after a particularly brutal Christmas Eve, during which I drank a bottle of champagne and told Luke’s Japanese teacher my life story in explicit detail over holiday dinner. The next morning, Zach said that if I didn’t change, he would remove me from his life. He said I was an embarrassment. A disaster. He couldn’t handle it.

My plan was to move back to Minneapolis from Chicago (where I’d gone to treatment and subsequently relapsed) on January 1, 2013. First, though, I would wreck myself on New Year’s Eve in Milwaukee with booze, speed, and hallucinogens. On New Year’s Day, I sat through breakfast with my friends, brainstorming ways to kill myself. I was sober for the next 20 months.

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Stop Rocking My Shame Boat: Women, Shame, and Sexuality

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A few months ago, a friend suggested that I write something about shame. I’ve resisted doing so until now because a.) shame is an enormous topic b.) it sucks and c.) it permeates pretty much every facet of my life, so WHERE WOULD I EVEN BEGIN???!!!

(Caps aren’t appropriate for professional writing, Leif.)

(Fuck you, subconscious parenthetical voice.)

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How 12-Step Programs Perpetuate Rape Culture

As most of you know, I no longer attend 12-step meetings. When I first told people I was backing away, I made a conscious effort to not offend anyone or talk shit on the program. Okay, well, I’m done doing that. Toxic people and systems encourage the kind of fear I’ve been sitting with — the kind that keeps people silent.

Y’all fucked with a big mouth.

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Creative Nonfiction: Ten of Swords

Hi. This, on the surface, is a story about the uncomfortable process of falling in love. Dig a little deeper and it’s a story about how trauma complicates love. Be warned: this is a rough draft with minimal edits. Also, I glossed over certain traumatic details because I don’t feel like dealing with them right now.

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Clearing the Fog in Prague: Goodbye, Europe. Hello, Leif.

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First day back in the States. Not looking so hot.

On September 23, I woke up in Prague on an L-shaped couch, head to head with a 30-something party boy from the suburbs of Chicago. He was sniffling in his sleep, occasionally pinching his nostrils to remove residual cocaine.

He sat up abruptly, checked his phone, sprang off the couch, buttoned his pants around his skinny boy beer belly, and scrambled to find the document he had picked up from his bald Australian friend’s house the night prior.

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