WTF (#WhatThe!?Friday)

Huh?! Four months since my last blog post!? I really do suck at this….but seriously, folks. I have been experiencing a Renaissance, of sorts. As the layers of residue from over a dozen unnecessary medications get peeled away, I can see more and more clearly. I can feel more clearly. Plus, I’ve been so BUSY since quitting my full-time job with freelance work, that I’m only just now coming up for air!

This is me:

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Except it’s more like:

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So now that I finally have a minute to breathe and collect my thoughts on what has happened over the past year and a half, I have no words. Save for: What. The. Fuck. Oh my god, GUYS! I was literally being drugged into a vegetative state by negligent medical professionals! Ahhh! Only now that I’m almost completely off of these unnecessary medications can I see just how devastating the effects of these mistakes and miscalculations were. And here I was, thinking it was ME! Woof.

I need to get my shit together and write/talk/record/create more about this experience. I think it can and will be very helpful to those in similar situations, and those struggling with mental wellbeing and the trial and error of behavioral health. I just hope I can find a new set of doctors that can treat the whole picture and provide comprehensive treatment that doesn’t turn into a shitshow of counter-indications and side effects. Until then, however, Hillary’s Medical Misadventures will continue, I’m sure.

Stay tuned, hopefully for real this time, for more updates. It’s a whole new old Hillary. Here’s to me…

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Irrational Fear Friday: E.T.

***Warning*** If you are also afraid of E.T., and you haven’t “come to terms with it” yet, I don’t recommend reading on…

To kick off the first official Irrational Fear Friday, I’ve decided to discuss the OG of Irrational Fears, my very first, and most terrifying fear: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.

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Me, circa 2007, expressing how I really feel at Universal Studios, Orlando, FL.

 

Yup, that’s right. My greatest fear is a friendly and benevolent 80s cinema icon. “But Hillary,” you might say, “E.T. is so cute! And he’s a good guy,” you might continue. “He’s not scary.” Yeah, ok, sure. That wasn’t enough to convince poor young Hillary, who had been unwittingly forced to view the entire film at the tender age of three by a clueless babysitter. “Oh, but saw E.T. when I was like, five, and I was fine…” Oh! Ok, well then I’m sorry, you’re right. Those images burned into my developing brain…that croaking, creaking voice…the recurring nightmares…that’s all nothing, don’t even worry about it!

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2008. Another successful exposure.

No. NO, cynical amalgamation of everyone who’s ever laughed at me for the abject terror induced by this lovable, wrinkly little alien! You’re wrong. The fear is REAL. There are DOZENS OF US!

But seriously folks. It became a part of who I was. My fear of E.T. became an endearing personality trait. But it wasn’t so cute for me. I was genuinely and semi-permanently traumatized by the film. I would like to take a serious moment to acknowledge and be grateful for my privilege in that E.T. was the worst trauma of my childhood (other than fat-shaming and bullying, but more on that in a future post). But I still had vivid, viscerally frightening nightmares. In fact, I have woken myself up screaming twice in my life, and both of those times were E.T. nightmares. At 8 years old, I refused to go to my best friend’s house until she hid all of her E.T. stuff in her closet. In middle school, they would show movies on a big screen in the cafeteria during recess if it was raining. One day in 7th grade, it happened. They showed it. I recognized the film almost immediately after it came on. I screamed. Like, not just some cute little “ah!” but a 1950s, B-horror flick scream, and I hid beneath the table. Needless to say, I was mortified. It took a while to live that one down.

Here are some classic movies I refused to watch for a long time because something about them reminded me of E.T.:

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

ETvsYoda This is obviously ridiculous, because this is the greatest Star Wars film ever made (so far). I saw A New Hope at 6, but I didn’t end up seeing Empire until I was maybe 10 or 11.

The Neverending Story (1984)

oracle Are you kidding me with this? The oracle is straight up E.T., but like…a girl? I can’t believe this one got past my parents.

Short Circuit (1986)

ETjohnny5 johnnyfive

Don’t even tell me you don’t see it, too…

Really anything that had a head wider than it was tall, or a long neck, or long, creepy fingers, or any glowing body parts could “trigger” me. I even had a hard time watching Drew Barrymore movies.

Here are all the classic movies I didn’t see until I was in college because my parents thought they would scare me:

  1. Jurassic Park
  2. Terminator and Terminator 2
  3. Jaws
  4. Any of the Alien films

I suffered a crazy gymnastics accident at 8 years old, and when they put the red glowing pulse meter on my finger, the nurse thought it would be comforting to tell me it was like in E.T. Luckily, they had administered valium and I can’t even remember how I reacted. And every fuckin’ time my family went to Disney World, we had to drive past this advertising abomination:

ETbillboard

Alright, I admit…this is actually cool AF.

By the time Wall-E came around, thankfully, I had come to terms with E.T. as a cultural phenomenon. I had seen the film several times without crying or running out of the room. I had even seen the 20th anniversary theatrical re-release in 2002. I had ridden the ride at Universal Studios countless times, for some crazy reason. (The first time I was 12, and although I had nightmares the following evening, I managed to get through the ride without launching myself off the flying bicycle or even closing my eyes!) But until I was in college, I would still get nightmares whenever I exposed to E.T. media or paraphernalia.

And a good buddy of mine in college thought it was hilarious to tease me about my E.T. phobia. This was back in the old days, when we still used AIM (AOL Instant Messenger. Google it.) so this guy would IM me saying he found a picture of a cute puppy. I, being a huge sucker for all cute animal pictures, would always click on the link. It would usually be something like this:

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When the E.T. sequel trailer parody was posted, this buddy sent me the link under some most likely adorable ruse, but I caught it in time and never watched it. My husband finally had to sit me down and force me to watch it several years later. Sobbing frightfully and trying to close the laptop, he held my hands away and pressed the spacebar. And it was….totally fine. And actually super funny. I would’ve thought the very idea of an entire race of E.T.s invading would be the fear to end all fears, but it really wasn’t bad. I was also beyond the phobia at this point; it had transcended fear and had become this crystallized little core inside my personality; a funny joke from my childhood and adolescence; a harmless children’s character from a brilliant film…and yet, my heart would still catch in my throat when I saw that iconic silhouette in front of the moon. I would still flinch if his image appeared for some reason in my web browser. Although I was no longer truly terrified by this one-time monster, I still harbored a very deep-seated, almost instinctive sense of…cautiousness.

The internet could be a particularly dangerous place for random E.T. sightings, and it was the WORST when that E.T. concept art was released, and again when it made the rounds on the internet a second time a few months later. I mean, whatever, I can look at it. And I won’t get nightmares any more (except for those two screaming ones…those were in adulthood -_- ). The movie is actually really great, Spielberg is one of my idols. And yes, I get that he is kind of cute. But damn, dude. LOOK at this guy!

Why E.T. is Terrifying

Well, thanks a lot, guys. Now I have all of these E.T. pictures saved to my computer. *Sigh* And every time I want to upload an image to my blog, he will appear in my WordPress album. But these are the sacrifices we must make for conquering our fears…and also comedy.

See ya next week for another terrifying installment of Irrational Fear Friday. Thanks for reading, pals!

#IFF: Irrational Fear Friday

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Ok. So clearly, I’m not doing a good job blogging/creating content/social mediaing. And why is that, you might ask? “You were so active for a couple…months…” you might add. Fear. The answer is fear. With an anxiety disorder, a lot of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (oh, hey, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) are influenced by fear a.k.a. worry, nervousness, or unease. And many of these fears, spoiler alert, are super irrational. I fear rejection, failure, vulnerability…all of the things that go hand in hand with putting yourself out there and having your voice heard. I want so badly to advocate for the causes that I hold dear. But, like an adorable turtle, I retreat into my shell, afraid of the world (wide web). So, considering this, I really think it would be fun, both from a self-discovery and growth perspective, and awkwardly hilarious entertainment perspective, to explore some of my irrational fears. And what better way to organize the thing and literally force myself to write about it than an easy-to-remember, catchy hashtag! IFF is an acronym that could mean any number of things on the internet: Image Fest Friday, International Flavors & Fragrances, Internet Freedom Foundation…but I’m going to go ahead and appropriate it, and now it’s #IrrationalFearFriday.

That’s right, folks. Every Friday I’ll be discussing another of my irrational fears and how totally and completely ludicrous they are. And hopefully, for anyone else who suffers from anxiety or excessive worry, you’ll realize that you’re not alone! And I mean, who doesn’t suffer from anxiety these days. Jesus. Let’s be honest: some of these will be more ridiculous than others. But I think some will resonate with many folks. Human beings are emotionally fragile creatures. Resilient ones, but fragile nonetheless.

I’ll keep this one short and sweet, since it’s super late (gee, I wonder why I put off posting this until 10pm….): my entire being is dictated by my fears. My fear of taking risks, of the unknown, of imperfection. I know there is so much potential inside of me, so much creative and joyful energy…I just have to break down those fears, just say “fuck it” and take those risks, put myself out there, try new things. Find my bliss…Sure, being afraid of failure is relatively rational. It sucks to fail! But what is irrational about it is that I don’t even try. And thus…I automatically fail. Well, I’m calling myself out on my own bullshit now. It’s time to face the ultimate fear: the fear of everything.

And so we commemorate the inaugural Irrational Fear Friday. But don’t worry, my dear reader, it shan’t be a mope-fest, a time to weep over how our brains are dumb-dumbs for being afraid of such silly shit. Nay, it shall be a time for mirth and hilarity, trust me 😉 After all, the blog’s called Hillary Be Laughin’

Can I Take a Mulligan?

Oh. Hi. I was going to title this post “2016: Can I Take a Mulligan?” because 2016 can suck it. But I realized that what I am about to embark upon is really an all-encompassing, full-life mulligan. Last year was a shit show, my friends, and it has taken me several months to fully recover from the tale I am about to tell you.

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My last blog post was almost a full year ago. I had seen only a fraction of the craziness I was about to endure. I don’t have bipolar disorder. It wasn’t a psychological issue. It was an endocrine one. Shortly after my last (and 2nd! yeesh) blog post, I descended, yet again, into madness.  They thought they had me on the right cocktail of medications, but what no one (myself included) realized was that maybe…just maybe, the problem wasn’t that I was bipolar and needed mood stabilizers, but instead that 5 months earlier, my new, Floridian primary care doctor had lowered the dose of my synthetic thyroid hormone by 25 micrograms. After a month or two of trying to work and live, of the deepest depression I had ever faced in my entire life, still tweaking the psychiatric meds with the behavioral hospital, it dawned on me: holy shit…I have felt this depressed. It was immediately after I had my thyroid removed.

Sad Hospital Hillary

Photo by Sylvie Rosokoff (@sylviethecamera)

For 6 months following my thyroidectomy, which my endocrinologist in New York was trying to find the correct dosage of synthetic hormone, I was a living ghost. I was a shell of a person. News Flash: your thyroid is responsible for way more than you think. So now, almost three years later, I was feeling that again: a darkness, a palpable hopelessness…It was August of 2016, and I had already changed primary care doctors at this point. The guy that lowered my hormone dosage was a fat-shamer: but more on that in a future post. I had had enough of his bullshit, and so I had changed to a new doc. The problem was, when I explained to her that I believed my insurmountable depression was being caused by that 12% decrease in my synthetic hormone, she refused to raise it, saying my thyroid hormone levels were elevated as it is. Even after I begged her, sobbing over the phone, to increase the dosage, she said no. I was devastated. Nothing was working. At this point, I had been on over 10 different psychiatric medications over the past four months. My brain was numb. And yet, in such excruciating emotional pain. I finally asked for a referral to an endocrinologist. Lo and behold, as soon as I told her the nutshell version of my experience thus far, she said “Oh, no! You’ve had cancer! You need to have elevated thyroid hormone levels!” Of course…

Picard Facepalm

Needless to say, my synthetic hormone was raised to its proper dosage. The various psychiatrists I had been seeing had finally realized that I do not have bipolar disorder and, as it has been for over 15 years, I have major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. But since I had been cycling through so many psych meds, my body and brain were still adjusting, and my depression continued to get worse until I finally decided to check in to a residential treatment facility. It’s not quite a mental institution, per se, at least not in the House on Haunted Hill, Arkham Asylum sense. But it was certainly 31 days under lock and key, following a rigorous schedule of therapy and psychoeducation, only leaving the property for field trips to mini-golf and Barnes and Noble. The purpose of these residential stays is primarily to stabilize your medication under strict supervision. And stabilize they did. It took a couple of weeks in the “real world” to readjust, and I’m still very much struggling with what I’ve termed my “midlife crisis” (despite my 31 years of age), but holy shit, am I back to “normal!” There were periods of time last year where I believed I would never be normal again, never feel human. The brain is a sensitive and powerful organ, something I will never again take for granted. I became reclusive. I took a four month medical leave of absence from work. I all but achieved radio silence on social media. But I’m back, baby. Today is the first day of the rest of my life, and I’m not going to fuck around. Stay tuned for more detailed recollections of what could very well be described as a complete nervous breakdown. But for now…Happy Saturday! It’s good to be back 😉

The Big Three Oh!

A lot of people, not just women, seem to dread turning thirty, like it’s some impending deadline before we turn into (gasp!) grown-ups. This arbitrary distinction always flummoxed me. It’s just a number, right? Maybe when I was younger, I would see jokes made on sit-coms or hear women complaining about the big 3-0, and perhaps I bought into it. But as I slowly crept through my late twenties, I relished the idea of 30. Perhaps the pendulum was swinging too far in the opposite direction, but I was stoked to finally be an adult, to get my shit together, to feel like I knew my place in the world. I turned thirty in August of 2015 and, although I did have a job (finally, after 2 years of depressing partial-employment after my cancer treatment), I didn’t really feel all that “put-together.” Then, a month later, I saw this little gem of a magazine cover:

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What is this shit? THIS is 30? What about the rest of us? The non-celebrity, not-so-powerful, not-so-successful, non-photoshopped, potentially frumpy ladies out there? I can appreciate the attempt to make 30 feel less threatening, but c’mon! And I also realize this is a fashion magazine, and I shouldn’t take it personally, because this is what fashion magazine’s do. But for whatever reason, it really hit me. It offended me. Now before you say “Oh you millennials get offended by EVERYTHING,” let me counter by saying a) I am not a millennial. I don’t know how all of a sudden everyone who was born within a 40 year time period is suddenly in the same generation and b) How would you like it if a magazine told you that THIS was what someone your age should be, not what you actually are. Needless to say, despite all logical rationalization to the contrary, I was bummed and felt inadequate. So I had an idea. Why not try and make my OWN magazine cover, for us chubbettes, for those of us who got totally screwed by the recession and the concept of “follow your dream” after our bachelor’s degrees turned into “good fucking luck.” So this is what I came up with:

This is 30

Photograph by Sylvie Rosokoff

Forgive my poor photoshopping skills (yikes, my right arm is crunchy!) and my ill-fated attempt at matching the fonts. I want you to know that the only post-production work done on this was some color correction in Lightroom, and of course removing the background and adding a gradient and words in photoshop. But the point is not my amazing photoshopping skills, the point is that Keira Knightley isn’t the only 30-year-old in this piece. BOOM! This is what 30 is about, for me at least. Sagging breasts, dimpled thighs (both are beautiful!), my little thyroidectomy scar, my Jewish nose, my crazy pink hair (RIP, pink hair), and my ill-fitting romper. And you know what? I love it all! Don’t be afraid of 30, people! It’s just a number. Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional. Just because there’s a three in front of my age doesn’t mean I have to stop shopping at the stores I want, or listening to the music I want, or playing the video games that I want. It’s just a number. And in a few short months, I’ll be 31, and THAT will be just a number. And all the numbers after that, each one more awesome than the last. Embrace your numbers, whether they be age, weight, or anything other measurement. They are just numbers, and do not reflect who you are as a person. Remember that 🙂 Cheers, my lovelies.

And rising forth from the ashes, she was…

Ok. So. Hi. I’m Hillary. I started blogging in 2013, and….things happened. Lots of things that got in the way with me keeping up consistently with the -ing we call blog(g). That blog was called The Validated Hypochondriac, because I, a neurotic hypochondriac, was finally “validated” after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2013. And that was only after a series of escalating, unrelated health problems, from horrifying skin reactions on my hands and arms, to a herniated disc which left me “floor-ridden” and unable to walk for six weeks. But I digress. I started that blog as a form of writing therapy, to help me get through the insane story I was living by writing it down. After the cancer was cut out, there were still health issues to blog about, but it became more of a general writing therapy than a health-related one. Anyway, like I said, things happened. It got worse before it got better before it got worse again. I can’t even begin to tell you how much has happened since 2014 when I essentially dropped off the blogosphere for “good.” But here I am, back in orbit, here to tell you tales of what happened, is currently happening, and what yet may be. Here’s an infographic to cover the basics of early 2013 until, well, about a month ago:

Hillary's Timeline.001Images from The Noun Project by Zach Harris, Sergey Demushkin, Dilon Choudhury, Joao Santos, Dominique Vincent, and Artem Kovyazin.

Now, when I say complete mental breakdown, I suppose that’s a bit of an exaggeration. To give you a bit of background: I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety and depression since I was about 13 years old, so needless to say I’ve been in my fair share of therapy, and on my fair share of psychotropic medications. One of these medications left me with some serious side effects and I found myself hospitalized. It was scary, and it was the culmination of a steady deterioration into relative madness. Now, I’ve come out on the other side with safe medications and a new diagnosis of Bipolar II. It’s like Diet Bipolar. If you don’t know what Bipolar Disorder is, I recommend you watch this cute little video from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness):

So here we are. I’ve established a “brand” for myself in Hillary Be Laughin’, and I want to put myself out into the world, share my story, and hopefully help other men and women who have experienced a shitstorm of weirdness in their lives. Let’s get started…