It is Happening Again

September 24th is the day that my life as I knew it, ended. Twice. In 2015, it was the day I started dating Eli. Two years prior, it was the day I thought I ruined it permanently with a car accident. I’ve written about this countless times on this blog alone, wrote an entire novel about it, and made a web series based off my novel in which I acted out this trauma. If anyone has processed and made peace with her trauma, it’s gotta be me, right? Sunday night I had the worst anxiety attack I’ve had, possibly ever. I started thinking, and then my thoughts spiraled out of my control. When Eli asked me what was going on, I attempted to explain it.

I just got really freaked that I’ve been performing everything my whole life and with you or something? And it hasn’t been real and I’m not happy or something? 

I don’t know why my brain just thought that and I don’t think it’s true but now I don’t know what’s what and I’m very scared. My brain just went ‘yeah but what if all you are is friends and you’ve just been lying to yourself or something’ and now I can’t breathe. I don’t know what the fuck is going on but I feel like I can’t trust anything.

Then came the confusion, the actual disassociation. I didn’t recognize myself. I didn’t trust anything in my life as the truth. I didn’t believe that anything I had ever known was real, and I didn’t trust reality itself. One moment I was so confused I didn’t think my relationship was real, and the next I realized that I haven’t broken down about the accident since the start of my relationship. I have been so perpetually busy for the entire 3 year span of our relationship, that I guess once I had a spare moment my body thought— okay, good time for a breakdown. I cried harder than I have in a very long time, and sobbed on the phone to Eli, apologizing profusely to the point that I actually started to hyperventilate.

I just started to think about how identity is ambiguous and it’s a series of hats we try on and who we were at 15 is not who we are now and so who are we really and therefore can we ever really know ourselves and furthermore HOW can we ever really know ourselves and know what’s true? And then I just got to thinking- oh my god maybe I don’t know what’s true and that was so terrifying... ? 

And that sounds so fucking crazy I know but I think I just got worried about my choices, because we have so many in this life- and I got worried that somehow I was making the wrong ones and I was locked in or something but that is so absolutely not true— it’s just that there are so many infinite possibilities and choices and doesn’t that just freak you the hell out sometimes? That you can choose anything, so maybe you’re choosing the wrong thing and don’t even know it?

I want you!! I want our life and I want our kids and our cats and I know that you are my actual soul mate and I’m so sorry and I hope you don’t take offense that my brain tried to convince me that I didn’t know that.

This time of year fucks me up. Because 5 years ago I thought I knew everything, I thought I knew what I wanted and then it broke down and I realized what I really wanted and so I think I’m paranoid that everything’s gonna break down again if I’m happy.

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These past few years have been a conscious effort on my part to prove to my parents and everyone around me that I am okay. No, I’m more than okay. I’m great. I’ve risen above this thing that tore me apart. To be clear— I have. But in a single moment it hit me, for the first time in a long time, that I am absolutely terrified of it happening again. In the early days after the accident, I would tell my mom and therapist that I was afraid, that in the back of my mind I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. After a while though, real joy seeped into my life. I became less afraid of that shoe dropping. I took a leap of faith on this relationship, and I thought that meant I was past it. That I wasn’t still afraid. This enormous breakdown was evidence to the contrary. 

The truth is, I have been working to prove that I am happy while simultaneously fearing that happiness, because the illusion of happiness is what I perceived in my life before my first downfall. And now that I’m actually happy? Oh, we could fall so much harder. If I am happy, my body is probably lying to me and some terrible thing is going to have to happen to jolt me out of it and show me the truth.

For about an hour, my body was in control, out of my brain’s control, making me physically feel before it let me mentally remember and logically think. It moved through me like a tidal wave, and I was so consumed by it that I barely noticed that hour passing. I’ve always loved that Eli and I started dating on the 24th of September, because I thought- this is my life coming full circle. This is the universe healing me. What they don’t tell you is that healing involves feeling it all over again. I thought I knew my own feelings enough to recognize my PTSD flashbacks. This experience was entirely new to me. I’ve felt flashbacks before, usually in the car. This wasn’t a car flashback, but a flashback of how I felt in the days and months after the accident. Deeply hopeless. Purely lost. Questioning everything.

And it’s funny, because I had just finished a video that I had been working on for a month, about this exact thing. About the tension I feel between my relationship and my accident.

My mom said she thinks this might be the last bit of processing I need to do before I can release it. This thought comforts me, but it also produces an unfamiliar panic. I am no stranger to facing my shit. I encourage it in post after post on this blog. I thought I was good at it, ready for it, past it. Last night I expressed to Eli my fear of myself, my fear that there’s more of this coming, and my fear of being alone with my thoughts. 

It’s just isolating. You are all you can really trust, and when you don’t feel like you can trust yourself...what do you have? I’m also feeling like— dear god please let there not be more. I can’t take any more. Also, if this is some big final processing thing like the Boss on Mario or some shit, what comes after? Also, how does one “process”? What does the after look like? It’s fucking scary.

He replied with,
Well you can’t really deal with, or even know what’s after until something happens and you are *after*.  But I hear you.

I’m waiting for the after, paralyzed by the now. That is the honest truth. But Eli is right. You can’t be after without the gritty meat of the before.

Take care,

Fran

P.S.- If you enjoy reading these rambles about my mental health, check out the podcast I’ve started with my friend Frankie. It’s called CrazyAF, and the first two episodes are live on iTunes now.

What Comes After

Sometimes I think that if I didn’t buy into the bullshit thoughts my brain feeds me, I'd be fucking unstoppable. What stops me are thoughts like, “you didn’t accomplish anything today.” I had that thought following two days with PTSD symptoms after a terrible accident at the library where I work. As a result, the library was closed, and I had two days off. They weren't days off, in terms of the weight of being a person, but they were two days where I didn't have to go to work, I guess.

Instead, they were two days in which I had to fight to stand up and feed myself. I cried at the drop of a hat. I almost accelerated into the back of a car on the way to an appointment. A deer hit my car on the way home. I was shaky, on edge, crumbling, and judging myself, because I felt stupid for falling apart when I wasn’t even present for the accident. I fell apart at the thought of this happening where I work, where I spend so much of my time. 

 Shoutout to  Gilmore Girls  for always getting it.

Shoutout to Gilmore Girls for always getting it.

Saying that I thought, “what if” about the accident at the library sounds inconsequential. It’s so much more than that. It’s like what if and PTSD had a demonic baby, which results in a much more realistic kind of nightmarish daydreaming. My brain thinks what if, and my body thinks right now. My heart races. Every social interaction feels like a battlefield.

As much as I don't love all of these PTSD symptoms, the far away feeling that comes after they pass is welcome. I'm not that anxious, because I'm just trying to be in each moment and not worry about worrying. I had a moment over that weekend where I realized that in some ways I felt irresponsible for not being anxious. If I'm not anxious, I'm probably just forgetting something that will stress me out when I remember it later. So, theoretically, I am doing later me a favor by being anxious now. At least when I'm anxious I know I'm not forgetting. When I'm anxious now I can convince myself that there won't be anxiety later. I'm partially right. Later there will be exhaustion, self-loathing, and what's that? Oh yeah, more anxiety. That I wasted my all of my precious time being anxious.

After spending two days trying not to fall apart, failing, and then giving in and just seeing where the falling apart took me (spoiler alert: I was 100% calmer once I gave in to not being okay), I thought to myself: man, you really should’ve used those extra two days to do some shit. Work on your book. Edit the podcast. You suck. 

I know I make a lot of bold statements in these blog posts. (It’s my public diary. I’m allowed.) But damn, I’m done. I’m done with beating myself up. So after I had this thought, I thought back to myself, “shut up. I did enough.” It’s going to be a battle to keep doing that. But I don’t care, because those negative thoughts stop me in my tracks and keep me from doing ANYTHING, let alone the to-dos in question. If I've learned anything from the fact that I felt better when I succumbed to feeling like shit, I think it’s that I’ll accomplish more if I stop jumping down my own throat about how much I accomplish. 

That first Monday back, I had no idea how I was going to do anything more than get through the day. When my therapist called me that morning, as I was on the edge of throwing up, throwing in the towel and calling it a sick day, he said that when something happens at our home or place of work, we can feel extremely disoriented, because those are places where we feel rooted, safe. I don't feel rooted here right now. I don't have answers. I am nothing more than a host to huge, incalculable feelings. Feelings that I am trying to honor and process, while also trying to navigate the potholes of professionalism and productivity

I don't have a neat ending to this blog post. This isn't a neat, or easily summarized moment in my life. But I felt the need to document it, to bleed out my feelings in the midst of feeling them. Feelings are messy. PTSD is messy. But I am here, in the middle of the mess, showing up on the page. 

Take care,

Fran

Awkward & Weirder & Better: My Web Series Filming Diary

What follows are actual excerpts from my actual diary over the past two months while filming my web series- Awkward & Weirder & Better. I hope you enjoy this look into a very anxious writer/director's brain.

March 4th, 2018

I’m in love with the idea of sinking into a yoga pose, and settling into the pain. I never felt that about normal weightlifting. When someone told me that they enjoyed the soreness after a good workout, I smiled outwardly and inwardly thought to myself “what the fuck?” Now I get it. I’ll settle into a particularly difficult pose and be amazed at how I can actually relax into it. In fact, I’m a little obsessed with the notion that we are ever adaptable, flexible, capable of settling into anything anywhere. 

When something hurts, when a pose brings up emotion, I find myself wondering “what am I supposed to be learning here?” What I’ve been learning lately is: I can do this. I can breathe through the pain long enough to sink into it and find that it doesn’t hurt anymore.

This idea has come up a lot for me lately, especially as I’m in my final semester of my Bachelor’s degree, working on my digital capstone project. This final project has been a long time coming. Since I finished a draft of my novel in September, I’ve been writing, re-writing, revising and re-revising a script for a short web series based on a piece of my novel. The idea is to tell a complete story in web series format without telling the entire story from the book. Sitting here, fifth (I think? I’ve lost count…) draft in hand, I feel like I’m finally close to being ready to start filming. Since this novel is based on real experiences with trauma, anxiety, and depression in my own life, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that this is not going to be an easy process. I’m going to have to excavate pieces of myself that I thought I had long buried. What I’ve learned is that it lives a lot closer to the surface than I realized. 

I’m amazed at how easy it has been to tap into 2013, 2014, 2015, as though they just happened. Those feelings sit on the surface of my skin, ready to be poked and bleed out at any moment. As I moved through this pre-production process and have tried and tried to find the right cast, I realized the ugly truth. I can’t cast this lead role. I can’t give it to someone else, because she is me, and I am her. Of course she is me, because this whole story is based on my life, so my life is her life. I have to do it. This was a realization that I took my time sinking into, just like the toughest poses in yoga. But after watching someone read who just wasn’t right for this role, and then sitting down in front of the camera with one of my creative besties and doing it myself….I figured out what I am supposed to be learning here. I’m supposed to learn to trust myself more. I was reluctant to do it myself because 1) I wanted to protect myself. Not trigger or re-traumatize myself. Telling this story is hard enough, without literally having to role-play the deepest, darkest feelings I’ve ever experienced in my life. 2) I was afraid I couldn’t do it. I am no Jennifer Lawrence. I wanted to direct this thing, and guide my actors to make this the best possible production it could be. But that’s just not in the cards. I am meant to do this, and after doing that initial read through, that became so much clearer to me. Not only am I meant to, but I CAN.  

I haven’t realized how good I have it, because I’m afraid it’s all going to fall apart. It can. Always. Anything can happen at any time. But living in fear doesn’t change that. Now, that’s easier said than done. But I’m saying it in the hopes that it commits me to it. I’m trying to remain present, because living in fear isn’t living presently. It’s living in fear of the past, and of the future. I’m there, not here. And I wanna be here, because here is really nice. 

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March 14th, 2018

I feel like I'm coming back to myself. I'm reading lots again (just in a different way). I'm making videos again, and watching movies. But there are a lot of pieces, new pieces, that I gained last year while I was lost. Yoga, meditation, eating well. I have come back to myself, with new elements in tow. I am a jigsaw puzzle of myself, a road map of where I have been and where I am going. I'm nostalgic for a lot of it, weirdly, but I'm grateful too. Nostalgic for the quiet creativity. Grateful that I don't have to do it alone anymore. 

Sunday we start filming. I feel like I am on the edge of a precipice in the same way I did in 2015, wanting desperately for Eli to love me. I feel it again. On the edge, split open, vulnerability pouring out. Letting it. 

Truth be told, I know the nerves will fade the second we start filming. Everything is lining up. We have a solid plan. It is going to get done. Yet I still have not fully come to terms with what I am doing. I'm not sure I will until it's over. A lot of feelings have been coming up, along with a lot of tears. Feelings of inadequacy, and of immense gratitude that I get to tell this story with a team of warriors behind me. I don't have the precise words for it, but it's like I'm not alone in this story anymore. 

March 19th, 2018

Yesterday was our first day of filming. It didn't go perfectly, and I didn't die. I'm still here. We learned that we need rehearsals. But we got a full scene done, and we made plans for rehearsal this Saturday night and a boss filming day Sunday. They were all really nice and encouraging, and told me I was the only one who thought we'd get all the coffee shop scenes done in one day. We have plenty of time, and we have a great game plan. Nevertheless, my brain freaked out and spiraled this morning. Work got me out of it, surprisingly. 

I am looking forward to this process, to creating and having fun with my friends. That's what I need to remind myself of whenever I spiral. This. Is. Fun. Because it is, in the moment. It is only after that the inner critic in my brain tries to convince me that it wasn't. I love that I get to do this. As self conscious and afraid of inconveniencing the world as I get, this is an amazing experience that I'm so lucky to have as my final school assignment.

March 22nd, 2018

I will fight anyone who tries to say that doing this is easy. This morning my mom said to me, "but it's fun!" And, sure, she's right. It is fun. But it is far from easy. I spent the morning doing boring, menial work that sometimes directors just need to do. I texted SO MANY PEOPLE. Can you come this day? Can you text me your address? Can we film here on this day? I emailed my professor-- oh hey dude, this is what I've been up to. I put everything into the calendar. Google Calendar owns my soul now. I highlighted and bracketed scripts: what we will film this Sunday, what we completed last week. When I got to work, I talked to my co-worker and co-director about it all. Is this a good idea? How do you feel about that? Don't get me wrong, it is awesome that I can get all of these things done over the course of a normal workday. It's pretty dope that I can be at work, doing my job, and also making progress on this project. But it just means that by the end of the day, I am BEAT. I don't want to text a single person. I don't want to talk to anyone but Eli. 

March 25th, 2018

This morning Amanda and Monica came over for filming. We got all of the home scenes shot beautifully. I'm really happy with our progress, and it was a lot of fun. We ended up postponing Peaks, which I now feel was a good idea as we did not have the extras we needed, nor the Chris to help Alt Margaux go smoothly. Eli and I went for a nice walk this afternoon, cried over Parks & Rec, and spent more time together than we anticipated. I'm nervous for this very full week of meetings and rehearsals ahead. I hope it all goes well and doesn't wipe me out. I'm currently trying to chill out about having every single scene perfectly scheduled. I have this one, and next week. Things come together and make more sense on set anyway. It will all fall into place, and what I need to do most is stay present and focus on the task at hand. One day at a time...said no anxious Fran ever.

March 30th, 2018

Tonight we had a rehearsal with Emily and I. It went really well. We ran through our lines and prepped everything. I feel really good about getting everything done tomorrow. I think we'll get it done quickly.

April 1st, 2018

Yesterday was a very good and very a lot day. Filming began at 3, and we somehow managed to get everything done by 6:45. It all went so smoothly, and we actually got really amazing shots. It wasn't an uphill battle at all, just so fun and easy. 

April 6th, 2018

Tonight was pure magic. We got all of the dreamy scenes done. It was so spooky and fun. They are some of the most visually stunning we've gotten so far. We also did a few mini photoshoots because my makeup looked awesome. We realized I can set up boring bedroom shots alone, so I'll probably do that tomorrow. There is a lot to do. Do those shots. Import clips. Instagram promote? Re-film update video and reveal cast. It feels like we are really flying forward into post-production territory. I'm trying to savor what I'm in. The moment, the dreaminess of it. There is fake blood caked in my hair. I am covered in calming lotion. My apartment is a mess. It is way past my bedtime. Yet I'm grateful for this process, and for this progress.

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April 9th, 2018

Yesterday was huge. We filmed the therapy scene downtown from 11-1:30, but I got there at 10:30 to set up. It was so hard to do that take again and again, literally hyperventilating every time. I felt like I was going to pass out a few times. I'm so proud of the work we did, though. Then we went to Peaks and only got one half of the remaining scenes done, but again- quality over quantity. I was absolutely wrecked last night. Just so physically and emotionally exhausted. But Eli made me go home early and take a bath, which helped. I didn't have the most restful night's sleep, but I am encouraged by the plan I made this morning for the remainder of filming. Without (hopefully) being too ambitious, the plan is to finish up the exterior shots at my house with Monica & Eli Sunday morning, before heading out to Peaks again to shoot the final scene. I will also shoot a few smaller night-time scenes on my own in my room at some point. Then, when Chris returns from vacation we'll film the opening car dream scene. In the meantime, I'll be editing. I'm trying to remain calm about not having the most energy for work. This project is taking a lot out of me, and getting some of my best work, and I need to be taking care of myself throughout. This team has been amazing. I'm so glad to have them by my side. No one has complained about us not having it all done yet, and even more incredibly no one has complained about me thinking we'd have it all done by now. 

April 13th, 2018

Tonight I finally got to spend so much dang time editing! Hoping a little break will inspire me to come back tomorrow and figure it out. After Eli left tonight I filmed a few alone scenes in my room, and they turned out so incredibly. This thing is actually going to be so beautiful. I'm so grateful and inspired. Trying not to do too much all at once, and wear myself down. Trying to rest, too. 

April 16th, 2018

Yesterday was our final full day of shooting. It was like the stars aligned for the single purpose of giving us the perfect shooting day. We got it all done in record time, and they turned out to be some of our best acting/shots yet. I felt very relieved by the end. Then Eli and I drank champagne and finished Parks & Rec. I got a splitting headache and had to take a bath in order to go to sleep. 

April 23rd, 2018

This weekend was really nice. Friday night Monica and I drank wine and edited. Saturday Eli and I ran errands and took a nap. Yesterday I deep cleaned the apartment, changed my sheets, gathered laundry. Then we went out and bought all sorts of new plants and flowers. The apartment feels alive, and mine, again. Last night we got the final car accident shots. Despite police, despite the quickly fading light, it felt really calm to me. Chris did a beautiful job, and we were done by 8. Now all that's left is to finish editing!

April 28th, 2018

I finished school yesterday. That doesn't feel real. I didn't quite process it, because immediately after sending it in (I had a little meltdown first) I went in to work, then from there went and walked in a fashion show randomly? The next afternoon I did a library program, and it wasn't until after that I realized. I'm done. I've been so consumed by it for so long that I kind of...had a hard time letting it go when I realized that. What is my identity? Transitioning from student to... artist? creative? adult? is going to be weird, and I need to give myself space for that. I don't know how to NOT be doing stuff all the time. I constantly invent reasons to be busy, and then mourn my lack of "relaxation time." I want to stop doing that. I want to learn how to flow, be in the moment and enjoy them. That's what I'm doing after college. I have goals, yes. But I need to learn how to fucking be again. I'm excited to transition with Eli, through every stage of life, to the people we are meant to become and the people beyond that and all of the versions in between. Right now, I'm sitting in my apartment. I'm cleaning it. I'm nurturing it, nurturing myself, tending to myself. I'm waiting to see what blooms, what evolves. I welcome it. But don't rush me.

-Fran