It’s normal for me to be extremely honest about what’s happening in my life, that’s how Nightmares and Laughter is designed. But my life is only a framing device for the real point of this page. I started it specifically to try and help others like me. In other words, I am the scene, you are the story. Since I was in a really bad place the last week, I’m hoping it can be useful.
What’s happening is not going to stop anytime soon, (the building is being sold, vulture lawyers and buyers will try to bully all of us, and may try to kick us all out.) I cannot stand this sort of unknown, the constant fear, I don’t feel safe, will we lose our home, how badly will they treat us, how ugly will this get? I know I will see the other side, but right now, I’m scared, and I don’t like that. It is just the cherry on the top of a number of other sorts of stresses so it just broke me. Chris was on a much-deserved vacation, so getting a letter with several lawyer’s names listed and vaguely threatening wording was too much. I fell apart for like a day and a half. What I’m describing is human, it’s normal, it’s perfectly ok. We all break sometimes, there’s no shame in that. I’m saying this to you, as well as to remind and convince myself.
But we had a tenant meeting a neighbor organized, (the lawyers do not want people talking to each other, they want us scared and unaware of our rights,) and it very much helped.
During the meeting, we all said what our biggest concerns were. Mostly they were similar; Chris and I would most definitely have to leave San Francisco, the city we love, and possibly the Bay Area. This infuriates me as a 3rd generation NorCal native, I can’t even afford my hometown, but I digress.
One of my dear neighbors is having a very hard time. As she was speaking my heart ached both because really, she has it worse by far, and also because I want to help. That’s my mission on this page, and that is what I want to do in real life.
Some of you know that Belle Chapin is a pseudonym. I started it that way because I was nervous about self-revealing, about what that could mean to my future, especially as I look for work, what it could mean in general due to stigma. I leave it that way as sort of a firewall I guess, between trolls and my identity, but I’ve mentioned it several times, and of course, posted photos of myself, so that’s sorted.
Now, I’ve done so on this blog. I used my real name on my book. The circle of people in real life who know is getting larger. But I didn’t know quite how comfortable I was with it until yesterday when that lovely woman was speaking, and I told her without thinking that I have bipolar disorder and I understand mental illness so please contact me if you need to.
As soon as that left my mouth, I pulled back inside. My inner monologue went straight to “Oh shit! I said that out loud, in front of humans.” I tried to get a grip on what this meant, what I had done. The toothpaste will never go back in the tube, so whatever someone brings to the table is how they will see me from now on. I don’t know many of these people at all, so unlike telling friends they will not be seeing it from a place of affection, but just strangers who live in my building. I have no control over what they will think of me or take from this. But the words simply left my mouth with zero thought other than explaining common issues that could be helpful. If I had told someone trying to get sober than I’ve been there, it would be the same. And what if I had? Would that feel different?
Actually yes, it would. I would have been more comfortable having announced, so to speak, that I’m an alcoholic, than that I have a mental illness. I think that’s worth looking at for all of us who fear stigma.
I mentioned I’m looking for a job. It’s common now for there to be a spot to enter a website. I’ve thought about linking to this blog. I’m proud of it, I’m happy with what I set out to do, I’m a decent writer, and I hope I have helped some people. But so far I haven’t, not once. Why not? Why shouldn’t I?
Because I’m afraid, is the short answer. Still, after all this time, I can’t bring myself to do it. And yet yesterday, in the middle of a room of people, many of whom are strangers, I reflexively blurted it out. It simply felt like the right thing to do to offer help.
I am the scene, you are the story. I set the plot, and you, my readers, who are largely strangers, take whatever you need, want, or not, and tell your story. That’s what I want, that’s what Nightmares and Laughter is supposed to be. But I can’t help a larger number if I hide away afraid. If I can’t bring this mission into my real life, how can I be of service? What if the person I’m listening to is too afraid to talk about it, and my revealing to them is a comfort, they’re not alone, I’m there for them. That’s the mission of Nightmares and Laughter. How can I fulfill that if I am afraid?
Stating it head high, matter of fact, unflinching, could illustrate that there is no shame in it, it’s nothing to hide, nothing to hold quaking in your heart. If I can’t do that, I am not true to myself and no help to anyone else.
I feel better now having found out our rights, and what exactly is going on with the building’s purchase. I feel better knowing we are not in immediate danger. Getting out of my own head and reaching out to someone else helps. We are not alone. Someone cares. Having the sword above our heads is a dreadful place for me, but I’m back on my feet. But last week I was not. I started an article in the midst of it, but it will wait until I have a clearer head to edit.
I leave you with this advice, when you are depressed, or in whatever state you find yourself, watch that internal monolog. Mine gets really ugly and vicious toward myself. Does yours? Someone said to me once, “If a friend came and told you they were feeling those things, what would you say to them? Would you tell them they’re stupid and worthless?” No, of course not. What would you say to them? What would you do? Nurture? Affirm? Would you talk softly to them? You are worth all of that and more.
Here are two resources for you, if you need them.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.