Slightly More Sane, Still F*cking Crazy

I’ve been crying my eyes out at night lately and I’m loving it.

I’ve been told that it’s the key to mental health. At least that’s what my shrink told me right before I moved away from Santa Cruz. I was telling her that I had watched the Woody Allen movie Everyone Says I Love You the night before, and that I started crying rather dramatically when Woody sang, “I’m through with love, I’ll never fall again…”. It wasn’t a particularly sad moment in terms of the plot. Woody was simply standing alone in his apartment looking longingly out the window singing a sad love song, and yet that image was all it took to bring me to tears. Lots of them. She told me that because I was just beginning to learn how to be vulnerable again, I may start crying at seemingly random moments, “Even while watching a silly Woody Allen movie,” she added with a smile. She also said to me, “I think if you keep crying you won’t have any more panic attacks. You may have one, maybe two…”

The idea of eventually conquering this whole panic thing is more appealing to me than a soaking wet Stanley Kowalski fresh out of anger management. Needless to say, I started to make damn sure to cry my eyes out whenever I felt the inclination to do so. If good ol’ Woody Allen reminded me of my past heartbreak, I allowed the water works to run their course. This fairly simple exercise seemed to work: I didn’t feel so tightly wound, I was sleeping like a baby at night, and, more importantly, I wasn’t having panic attacks.

It was during this relatively healthy period that Dustin Hoffman visited me in a dream and told me he was my spirit guide. (If ya missed hearing about that, you can catch up here: http://thegraduate-steffic.blogspot.com/2010/07/my-spirit-animal-is-dustin-hoffman.html). I was already feeling great thanks to my weeping regimen, but after meeting Dusty in Las Vegas I was just plain giddy. For weeks. I even felt giddy the first few weeks I was back in Agoura. I wasn’t worrying about the job market or My Future or the fact that I now share a wall with my parents — I was only concerned with my Netflix queue. My only mistake, which turned out to be huge, was that I didn’t allow myself any time to really think about how my new [old] surroundings made me feel. When people would ask me how my transition was going, I would use my automatic I-Don’t-Give-A-Shit tone and say, “Eh, it’s fine.” In reality, I had no idea how the transition was going. I hadn’t thought about it, and, more importantly, I hadn’t really felt it. Feelings are scary, and I was too scared to know how I felt about my new [old] life in Agoura Fucking Hills.

I did not get away with operating on autopilot for very long. Not at all. Last weekend I drove up to Santa Cruz to see my friend Danielle perform in a production of The Music Man. I had a great time and I’m very thankful I was able to make the trip, but alas, I had to fight off a panic attack for the first hour of the drive back to Agoura. I pulled over at two different Call Box turn outs in twenty minutes, and as soon as I made it to Highway 101 I pulled over to the nearest restaurant and drank copious amounts of water. I even read a chapter of The Godfather in hopes I’d get lost in the story and forget about the tingling in my left arm, a sensation that is symptomatic of panic attacks, yet always convinces me that I’m going to die of heart failure as a 23 year old, menstruating woman. Eventually I calmed the Hell down and got home just fine, but because the panic attack I was fighting never fully developed, I felt a bit off for the next few days. I’d feel dizzy here and there, and my left arm still tingled from time to time. Instead of taking it easy, I got mad at myself. I was doing so well and then dammit, I was an anxious dick again.

Last Wednesday, aka: day three of tingly arms and a rapid heartbeat, I went to go watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the big screen at the Agoura Regency Theater. (They do these flashback Wednesdays. They’re fun. Although now that I think about it, I realize I will not be able to make it to Monty Python and the Holy Grail this week. Damn.) I had a perfectly lovely time, and by then, while I still had not looked inward and figured out why I was feeling so off, I was at least no longer angry…that’s what happens when I choose to just ignore things, anyway. During the last scene of the movie, Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard are sitting in a taxi cab having one of those final showdown arguments that happen in romantic films, and Audrey Hepburn says that she can’t be with him because he just wants to “put [her] in a cage.” George Peppard looks at her and says, “I don’t want to put you in a cage. I want to love you.”

Forget “I’m through with love.” That line of dialogue almost killed me. By some miracle, I was able to hold in my sobs until I was at home in my room ready for bed. But shit, did I ever let it all out. All I had to do was think about that line again, and the next thing I knew I was hyperventilating in the fetal position, covered in tears and snot. I cried about everything. I let all my negative thoughts pop in to my head, and then I cried ’em all out: I miss Santa Cruz, I hate the mall, I’m not dating George Peppard, and so on. It was great.

It has now been a week since I got back from Santa Cruz feeling like Tony Soprano after a plate of gabagool, and life is infinitely better. The tingly feeling in my left arm is gone, so unless fatal heart conditions come and go, I’m rather positive that it was psychosomatic. More importantly, I’m not mad at myself anymore. I tried to ignore what was going on in my head while I was visiting my favorite place in California, where I no longer live, but hey, I suppose it’s not too early to say that I finally learned my lesson. It’s simple, really: Feeling = [Moderate] Serenity, and Not Feeling = Shallow Breathing At A Call Box.

Dustin Hoffman visited me in a dream again. It was Saturday night, and I dreamed that I was sitting at a round table having dinner with my immediate family, and Dusty was sitting next to me. Like last time, I don’t remember anything we said to each other. What I do remember is that everyone had a good time, dinner was delicious, and Dusty was all smiles. In the dream I wanted to tell him that I was so very thankful to be having dinner with him, but I kept it to myself. I knew I’d see him again.

Then, as dreams do, the dinner scene faded away and I was suddenly in my parents’ house one sunny afternoon. My dad was having some friends over, maybe to watch a game on television, and so when the doorbell rang I walked up to answer it, knowing that it was most likely one of my dad’s guests. Through the window, I could see that the guest was my dad’s good buddy Jack Nicholson. (My father isn’t actually friends with Jack. This is dreamland.) He was wearing a white linen suit and sunglasses. (Duh.) I was happy it was him, and when I opened the door I squeeled, “Jack!” and threw my arms around him. I mean, Jack and I were good buddies as well and seeing him at my doorstep was not at all out of the ordinary, but still, I had to take advantage of embracing him. I mean, he’s JACK. As we hugged, Jack said, in his smoky, old man voice, “Oh, baby.” I pulled away, smiled at him, and he looked at me and said, “I haven’t so much as shot a pool cue in over a month.”

Oh, Jack. You may not be Dustin Hoffman when it comes to spirituality and tranquility, but you sure are fun. And the fact that you came to my house in boring old Agoura Hills to hang out with my dad and watch some boring sports game shows stupid little Me that my life, at this moment, is much more exciting than I think it is, not to mention the fact that I managed to work your ancient hormones in to a frenzy. Oy.

Bring on the confusion, the exhaustion, the laughter, the tears, and please, let’s keep the symbolic dreams of Hollywood legends coming night after night.

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