What bullying does to brilliance

There’s this teenager I know. She’s brilliant, way mature for her age. She reads books I read and discusses them with a level of intellect and understanding that never fails to amaze. Let’s call her Emily. Then, I received the news yesterday …

Due to suicide speak, cutting, and bulimia, Emily has been placed in a special care facility. She’s only thirteen. When asked what caused all this, Emily admits it was bullying.

Once upon a time, Emily dated the middle school star. He was an athlete and popular kid, whereas Emily was quiet, snarky, and smart. She only recently discovered her preference for girls. In fact, Emily broke up with Mr. Popularity to date a girl, but beware the delicate egos of teenage boys.

Emily’s ex-boyfriend built an Instagram account for the sole purpose of terrorizing her. Via that account, he sent message after message:

You’re ugly.

You’re fat.

You’re going to hell.

Sadly, Emily started to believe this boy’s vitriol, and although she probably had some simmering depression issues already (as do many girls going through puberty), this bullying pushed her into a deep, dark hole where suicide seemed the best recourse.

The eating disorder flourished, too. Emily began counting the amount of carrots she ate. She started watching her mother cook dinner, making sure she didn’t use too much butter. Even when she did eat, Emily soon disappeared to purge. She lost thirty pounds.

Eventually, the cruel Instagram account was discovered, and the middle school principal kindly asked Mr. Popularity to stop harassing Emily. The principal spoke to the boy’s parents but not Emily’s. Apparently, Emily wasn’t important enough to enter the discussion. I’m sure the principal assumed she would be fine. A little bit of bullying? No big deal.

Well, she’s not fine. Her parents can’t leave her alone for fear of what she might do. She spends her days at the care center on a strict diet, surrounded by 12-18-year-old kids like her. They attend support groups and talk through their problems. Emily hopes to return to normal school by the end of March.

But what awaits her then? More bullying? Will Mr. Popularity come back for more? Will the principal acknowledge the bullying? Will the principal care? Will anyone care?

A couple weeks ago, a local sixth grader committed suicide by slitting her wrists. This was not a passive attempt; this was violent dedication. I don’t know why she chose to end her life, but I do wonder how a sixth grader arrived in such a dark place.

It seems like a vague broad stroke to blame society or social media, but I don’t know where else to look. When I was in sixth grade, I didn’t know what suicide was. I was most concerned with my grades, not my mental health. Shit, I didn’t know what “mental health” was. Kids today do. They’ve become experts at being sad, confused, and sometimes cruel.

I’m scared for them. I want to hug all of them, especially Emily as they treat the sores in her throat from months of purging and keep her away from sharp objects. This little girl has so much promise—a truly amazing youth—and some dumb idiot bully robbed her joy and distorted her self-image.

I don’t have answers. I do think about that old CSNY song … “Teach your children well.” Mr. Popularity might have earned a little slap on the wrist, but I doubt he understands the full ramifications of his actions. I’m sure he doesn’t know the destruction he caused, but maybe if he did, he would stop bullying instead of moving on to the next victim.

Similarly, it appears discussing mental health needs to happen early. When I was in elementary school a hundred years ago, we never talked about depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. Maybe we should, just so kids can understand that there is help if they’re sad. However, flip that coin, and educating them early might impart the knowledge to hurt themselves. How much do we want our kids to know anyway? How early are we willing to lose that innocence?

It’s all just a mess. I wish I knew what to do. I wish I could help Emily—and I do try, as best as I can, but it’s not enough. Cutting can be perceived as an addiction, and we all know addicts won’t get well unless they make that choice; other people can’t make it for them. Maybe that’s what Emily is going through now. She must decide to put the razor down and eat again, and I hope she will. The world is a much brighter place with her in it.

Please listen to your kids. Keep an eye on them, but don’t hover because that will undoubtedly push them away. Love them. Just love them.

Holiday cheer?

On our descent into O’Hare International Airport in Chicago Friday night, we passed through a thick layer of fog/smog. Not sure which. This was after a week of Christmas celebrations and travel with two non-functional post-op feet. A week of very little alone time for a woman who loves alone time.

Anyway, we had to fly through fog, okay? But then, once the fog broke, there were all these little lights. If you’ve ever flown at night, you’re aware there are little lights. This was different. These were Christmas lights. Teeny tiny Christmas lights decorated little Monopoly-sized houses that got bigger and bigger as we descended into O’Hare.

It was … beautiful. All those houses lit with glimmering lights of green, blue, red, et cetera. Houses I will never see up close, decorated by people I will never meet. It didn’t matter. It was a sight that took my breath away.

Friday night, I was tired. I was grumpy. I was in pain. All of it went away when I saw all those twinkle lights beneath the fog.

I suppose the metaphor is obvious, but let’s reiterate: beneath all the shit is something beautiful. Beneath all the sadness and tough times you’re going through, something meaningful awaits. We don’t go through shit for no reason. We don’t float through the fogs of mental illness/death/worthlessness/name your poison for nothing.

Eventually, twinkle lights show up and remind us that life is beautiful. It’s easy to forget, especially during this difficult time of year when we’re supposed to be jolly and blah blah happy blah joy to the world blaaaaaaaaah. Most of us aren’t fucking jolly, okay? We’re sad and stressed and just want the parties to be over.

Then, there were those tiny lights decorating houses in Chicago, and BOOM.



A wily giggle.

Sorry if you’re going through the fog right now. I know I have been. And no, the lights didn’t heal everything, but they made me remember that life is pretty damn good. Yeah, we pass through dark times, but there’s light eventually. We just gotta be strong and wait. Trust me; the light shows up when you least expect it.

Live life to the fullest?

Just had a phone call with my hubby. One of his old coworkers is in hospice, dying of cancer, and the man’s wife has kept a journal of all the happenings that (according to my husband) is both sad and uplifting. It’s a reminder to live every day to the fullest because tomorrow is never promised.

I cried today over a rejection letter from a literary agent. It was the final rejection in a long line for a certain manuscript that initially evoked much enthusiasm with agents … but, in the end, did not. I cried over this rejection and came to the realization that bartending is way more fun than publishing. And the money is better. And it’s just so much less stressful and emotional.

Maybe it’s because I suffer from chronic depression, but some days, I’m just pissed. I don’t want to have a positive outlook. I want to be grumpy. Are grumpy days wasted? Are busy days wasted? Ferris Bueller would have us slow down and stare life in the face, but Jesus Christ, some days, I DON’T WANT TO.

Again, maybe it’s the depression, but living life to the fullest sounds mostly tiresome. I mean, it’s not like I can just stop working and run amok around the world, having many adventures. I probably wouldn’t want to anyway. Living life to the fullest sounds exhausting. Also, I’m not actually sure how to do it.

I’m not a deep person. I rarely ponder the mysteries of the universe or the purpose of life. Mostly, I just stay busy because I don’t know what else to do. What is the point of all this anyway?

I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve totally lost touch with God lately. I talk to Him, but I don’t know what He wants from me. What am I here for anyway?

People, right? Loving the people in your life is important, and yet, I’ve been too busy to give my family members the attention they deserve. I should be talking to them more, because remember: tomorrow is not promised. I could make more time for them, but I’m in a chaotic fog most of the time.

I have loved reentering the bartending field, and I love writing. (I hate pretty much every other part of being a writer except the writing.) It would be so much more fun to write for me and my friends and bartend to make a living, because Lord knows writing books doesn’t pay the bills.

See? I’m complaining about the most inane stuff when young people are dying of cancer. A woman is about to lose her spouse, and I’m stressed about making dinner.

Change my perspective, right? See what’s really important in life. Focus on the positives. Live life to the fullest.

It’s all so easy to say, but how the hell do I do it?

I Do Not Feel Okay … Do You?


Yesterday, I watched someone have a meltdown at my bar. I realize alcohol is a crazy thing and that, as a bartender, I often see crazy things due to alcohol. Last night was something else. It was a full grown man finally breaking down after a series of very unfortunate events, and he broke down in a violent, loud, hard to watch way (that eventually merited the cops).

This isn’t specifically directed towards men, although I know most men were raised to be tough and not talk about their feelings. Women have the same problem because we want to seem perfect, like we have it all together (and really, who does?). This isn’t even a particularly long blog post, but listen.

Sometimes, we all need help.

Sometimes, we need to admit that we are










Pick your emotion.

I don’t want you to have a meltdown. If you think your mental health is taking a turn, don’t just sit idly back and hope it gets better. Do something. Talk to friends and family. Talk to your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend. Talk to your doctor about getting on meds. Talk to a therapist. Hell, just write a loud ranting blog post.

Whatever you do, get that poisonous shit out.

Get treatment.

Get help.

I guess that’s the first step: learn that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to admit you’re not perfect. In fact, it’s okay to admit you’re barely holding on. When you’re barely holding on, that’s when you need the most help, so please please PLEASE don’t suffer in silence.

My heart broke for my devastated customer last night. I want him to get help and get better, but he has to make the decision to seek help. He has to admit I DO NOT FEEL OKAY, and with admittance comes the start of healing.

You are not alone

Yesterday, I wrote a pretty heavy blog post because life is heavy right now. I received some amazing responses, some serious, some silly, but all reminding me that I do not suffer alone. A sampling of texts …

“So we have this life. Mother Earth gives us everything we need to survive but does not give a fuck if we do or not. I think that’s beautiful. We must learn to fight. Learn to adapt. Learn to love. Then we learn that everything ends. That’s beautiful, too. So in this brief time we are given, we can do our best to live our best lives and make a difference in whatever small way we can. Or we can sit around and feel bad for ourselves and be miserable. We’re gonna die eventually regardless of our choices. Might as well make good choices.”

“I feel you. Life sucks balls. Just pretend to Life. You can. Do it.”

“I actually sobbed my way through your post this afternoon because I can relate to it so much right now. Reaching out to you from my own dark hole.”

“I just wanna float. Is that possible?”

“That kind of depression sucks. It’s the ‘I’d rather not get out of bed’ variety. Exercise is basically the only thing keeping me sane right now.”

“I once asked a professor I really respected how she ‘did it all,’ expecting some super wise advice. She said, ‘Just get up and do things. Then, things happen.’ I was disappointed at the time, but the older I get, the more I think that’s about right. Just keep on going on.”

Several of these messages were interspersed with GIFs of Timothee Chalamet and Cillian Murphy, so that didn’t hurt, but the words were helpful, too.

Just remember: you’re not alone in your depression. Other people are super sad, too. Other people can’t get out of bed, either. We are never alone, and we can’t give up.

Depression never really goes away

I’m trying not to be angry with myself for my current state of depression. It doesn’t help to get angry with myself. I know, scientifically and from experience: depression doesn’t go away. It merely hides.

Literally, I say in my own mental health speech:

“I think the scariest thing about depression is that it waits. It has the patience of God. It’s that dark shadow in the scary movie, the monster under your bed. It waits and it waits and then it shows up with its knives for fingers, bloodshot eyes, fangs. It shows up and says, ‘Remember me? You didn’t really think I’d gone, did you?’”

Maybe I’m angry because, for a hot minute, I was doing so well. I was in the midst of successful therapy and had finally found an antidepressant that worked. There was joy in my life again. There were actual emotions other than sad and sadder. I looked forward to things and woke in the morning not dreading every minute of the coming day.

Then, some bad things happened last week. I was on a bender all weekend. There are hazy alcohol moments I don’t quite remember. I felt out of control. I wanted to give up on everything.

I told myself Sunday night, Okay, that’s it; tomorrow is a new week. You got this.

Well, I don’t “got this.”

I’m beyond sad. I’m numb, which might be worse, and I’m beating myself up because YOU WERE DOING SO WELL, SARA. Things looked good again. I felt good again. Now, it’s all gone.

Depression isn’t like the flu. You can’t get an anti-depression vaccine. It’s the invisible killer. There is no cure, only treatments, and many of us seek treatments so we can live semi-normal lives. But just like cold weather makes arthritis flare up, life circumstances affect our mental health—no matter the yoga or funny movies or SSRIs.

Depression is the relative you don’t like but shows up for surprise visits anyway.

Depression is the thief who comes in the night and makes you less in the morning.

Depression is the thing that will never let me go because it’s not only in my blood but also in my sensitive, artistic psychological makeup.

This is me, riding the proverbial rollercoaster. Up, down, up, down.

Today, I can’t remember how to be happy. I don’t even remember what “happy” feels like, but I tasted it for several weeks this year, so I know I can get back there. I can find “happy” again. For now, I nurse an open wound that doesn’t bleed because depression is invisible.

It’s not like getting your arm chopped off. If you get your arm chopped off, people are going to point and say, “You should probably get that checked out.” No one can look at depression, see the pain is so much worse, and give me a bandage to fix it.

The waiting


I’m in the midst of an in-between time where important things float above my head with as yet no resolution. In other words … I’m waiting.

I’m not good at waiting. I hate security lines at airports, traffic, and crowded bars. (If I can’t get a beer in five minutes, I’m outta there.) Those are trivial things. This waiting is much bigger, and it’s starting to drive me insane.

I’m sure you’ve been there, waiting for that specific email or phone call that could possibly change your life or at least send you down a different path. The waiting eats at my brain. This thing I’m waiting for is always in the back of my mind, no matter what I’m doing. It’s with me in the morning, in the evening, and annoyingly, even in yoga–which is supposed to be my happy Zen place, damn it.

So far, nothing has helped with this waiting. I work. I work a lot honestly, but it’s like I’m not “all in” because I don’t know if what I’m doing is worthwhile as I wait.

For instance, I should be starting to write a new novel. I have the Word document open. I’m ready to do full character bios and establish setting. Yet, I can’t bring myself to work on this new project until I get some clarity.

I should be booking my mental health speech at writers’ conferences. I should be looking into yoga teacher certification. I should, I should, but I can’t because I can’t get my mind off the waiting.

Am I being purposely vague? No. I just can’t tell you exactly what the waiting is all about. I can just tell you I’m waiting.

Friends are being helpful, telling me to put my concern in the hands of the universe/God/et cetera. And I do pray about this waiting situation every night. I just want some answers, ya know? I’m beginning to feel like a patient waiting for a doctor’s bad news.

This is an in-between time filled with worry that is sucking the energy and, dare I say, joy from my day-to-day. I don’t wanna wait anymore. Give me some answers.

Your inner saboteur

Happy Sara versus Evil Sara?

Last night, I was watching an old episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I love this show. It makes me laugh, smile, and gag over the costuming. Last night’s episode, though, got a little dark.

RuPaul asked her girls to create two looks for the main stage: their happiest, prettiest drag and then … their inner saboteur. Basically, these girls had to dig up the worst parts of themselves and show them to the world.

It got me thinking about my own inner saboteur. What does my negative self talk sound like? Who is the bitch who lives inside me?

Let’s call her Sara Downer Bauer (huh, that rhymes). Wanna hear some of the things she says to me? I sure don’t, but here goes:

You’ll never be good enough.

Writer? You’re not a writer. You’re a hack. Everyone is better than you. EVERYONE. You write meaningless little ditties that touch no one, reach no one. You should give up.

Oh, and you’re selfish. You think of yourself before other people. Don’t deny it; you know it’s true.

You’re weak, too. You think you’re so strong? Nope, you’re a sniveling baby who’s scared half the time.


You can’t even keep a clean house or balance a checkbook. What the hell right do you have to be married to a great guy like Jake? Poor bastard didn’t know what he was getting into.


So, yeah, there’s a taste. Get the idea? These thoughts float through my mind at least once a day, but I try to fight them. I try to tell these thoughts to shut up. But they’ve been a part of me for so long; it’s tough sometimes to make the inner saboteur just go to hell.

However, as RuPaul stated in last night’s episode, “Look [at your inner saboteur], but don’t stare.” As some of the girls pointed out, those negative voices have occasionally pushed them to greatness … when not dragging them to the bottom of the sea. So it’s okay to glance at Mean You; just don’t hang out with her.

We all have our inner champion—the voice that tells us we’re doing fine, doing great even. This inner champion battles the inner saboteur. I’m not saying we’re all split personalities, but we do carry this psychological duality. You’re a champion, but you suck. These voices can and do coexist, but you gotta choose which voice you’re listening to.

I love this quote from art critic Jerry Saltz about his voices: “They tell you that you’re faking it, that other people see through you, that you’re lazy, that you don’t know what you’re doing, and that you’re just doing this to get attention or money. I have one solution to turn away these demons: After beating yourself up for half an hour or so, stop and say out loud, ‘Yeah, but I’m a fucking genius.”

Also, I find this reading by Benedict Cumberbatch is ALWAYS a perfect way to make the negative voices go away:

Now, what does your inner saboteur sound like? It’s important to recognize this voice so you know how to make it stop. Make it stop. It’s difficult, but do it … and if you have any suggestions on HOW to make it stop, let me know.

Do I know you?


Ten years ago, I woke up Easter Sunday in Charleston, South Carolina, in my boyfriend’s bed following a night of wine, cigarettes, and brilliant conversation. I woke early because I needed to get to church.

Outside, on that humid morning, a congregation across the street was just about to begin its worship. Women in flowing spring dresses and huge, Southern hats milled about with handsome, suited husbands on their arms.

I attended church that Easter with a friend of mine because my boyfriend was agnostic at best but probably more of an atheist who thought it was super weird I went to church. (I did not marry this boyfriend; I actually met my husband five months later.)

I remember feeling nothing that Sunday morning. Easter, the cornerstone of my religious beliefs, felt like just another day. I think I might have even been bored during the service. The holiday came and went with zero fanfare.

That girl I was ten years ago? She feels like someone else. That entire life feels like a life that belonged to someone else. Scrolling through those memories is akin to watching an old movie—an old movie you didn’t even like.

Ten years ago, I was really unhappy in Charleston, South Carolina, despite the beautiful architecture, charming city, and rolling beaches nearby. Despite a boyfriend who thought I was beautiful and brilliant. I know I was unhappy then, and yet, I can look back now and not feel a damn thing.

Frankly, that girl from ten years ago isn’t me. I look at her now and ask, “Do I know you?” I know we met before, but I don’t recognize her. She is another life.

We live so many lives. I’m not talking about reincarnation. Over the span of how ever many years we get on this earth, we are so many different people. For me, there is college Sara. Bartender Sara. Sara in that relationship. Sara in Charleston. Sara in Phoenix. Sara after signing her first publishing deal.

Sara today, six weeks after starting Wellbutrin.

From October 2018 to March 2019, my depression was unmanageable. I was “barely there Sara.” Sara the ghost. Sara without laughter or joy. I tried the right things. I took care of myself physically. I sought therapy. I read self-help books and prayed. Nothing worked until my therapist suggested medication—something I once promised myself I would never do again. But I took her advice and started antidepressants.

In therapy this past Thursday, my therapist and I did more socializing than delving into issues … possibly because it felt like so many of my issues had disappeared. We both agreed: although there are some circumstantial things messing with my head, I have a chemical imbalance, and the Wellbutrin has given me back my smile, my energy, and a whole lot of peace.

That girl I was in March? She seems as far away now as that miserable woman from Easter ten years ago, and I feel okay letting both of these past lives go. The symbolism might be heavy, but like Jesus, I feel reborn. Like Frankenstein’s Creature, IT’S ALIVE! I know there will still be dark days because depression is an ambitious beast that continually creeps, but even the dark days might be a bit lighter.

Sometimes, a lifestyle change is necessary, but it looks like (for me), sometimes meds are necessary, too, as is letting go of things past. Let’s see what this new version of Sara gets up to.

Hanging on to vacation brain


I’ve spent the last ten days on vacation, mostly on a beach in Florida doing nothing but watching waves, drinking Corona, and smoking the occasional cigar. Oh, and eating seafood obviously.

I do this pilgrimage every April, so I know what to expect: utter relaxation and escape from “real life.”

When I’m on my beach in Florida, I don’t worry about anxiety or depression. I don’t think about all the work I should be doing. I don’t stress over my upcoming schedule or money/death/Indians baseball. No, I simply exist without social media or email for over a week. It’s incredible.

I arrived home yesterday, and I’m trying to move slowly. Last night, for instance, instead of hurrying to the grocery store and cooking dinner, I went to my favorite Cleveland bar for cheap wings. Instead of working through my lunch today, I did yoga. I took my dogs to the park. I’ve been working, yes–catching up on email and organizing the coming month–but I’m trying to be slow about it. I fear rushing back into the stressors of day-to-day could erase the vacation brain I’ve spent ten days cultivating.

Now, I realize beach life is a different life. I love beach life. I enjoy the slow pace, the walks on the beach, and need to be … nowhere. The air smells different down there; the breeze feels freer. I’m different in Florida. I laugh more, relax more, and just don’t worry about anything.

I can’t exist in that space forever.

Well, I could.

I spent time with several official “beach bums” in Florida who seemingly do nothing but drink beer and talk about boats. I could, in theory, give up on real life … but I won’t. The question I ponder today is: How do I tap back into vacation brain? Is there a hidden pocket in my mind where I can tuck it away and metaphorically visit the beach whenever I want? I’m working on it.

Doing nothing is an art form. I did a whole lot of nothing recently in Florida. I need to do more nothing here in Ohio. I just need to travel to that special place in my brain where the Corona flows freely and no one mentions work, money, or (best of all) feeling sad.