Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Out from the Darkness: My 30th Birthday Fundraiser in Support of Suicide Prevention

I'm turning 30 on Tuesday. I've thought a lot about turning 30, but I haven't written much about it - until two weeks ago, when xoJane published a very personal piece I wrote titled "I Vowed To Kill Myself By Age 30 -- My Birthday Is Next Month."

You can probably tell what the post is about just by reading the title, but in case not, here's the TL;DR: When I was 20 years old, I was very depressed & lost & scared of living, & I promised myself that if I lived to 30, I'd commit suicide. Spoiler alert: I haven't, & I don't plan to, but hitting the big 3-0 is a strange milemarker for me in a way that it's not for many people, for people who haven't struggled with depression & anxiety their whole lives. I'm very, very happy to be here & am very, very proud of the piece I wrote. I'm also very, very thankful for the support & kindness I'm received in reception to its publication.

Having made it this far, though, I'm also quite cognizant of the fact that many others are not here yet, & many more never made it here at all. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that in 2011 (the most recent year for which data are available), someone died by suicide every 13.3 minutes.

I'm turning 30 on Tuesday, & there are a lot of material items I would put on a birthday wishlist, if that were a thing adults could get away with doing. But more than I want a new Longchamp bag or a rechargeable iPhone case or a Groupon for someone to come clean my apartment (see what I did there?), what I actually want is for other people who are struggling like I was to see their next birthdays, too - & the ones after that & after that & after that.

In honor of my own birthday, I'm making a donation to To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope & finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, & suicide. I waffled between TWLOHA & the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, both worthy organizations, but I ultimately decided on the former because it's made a name for itself as a safe place for struggling teenagers, in particular, to turn. Given my personal journey with mental illness - which was in full force during my teen years & early twenties, in particular - this seemed like the best way to help other people who are currently facing the same sort of battles I did.

Will you help me support To Write Love on Her Arms? Visit my fundraising page, www.stayclassy.org/kateis30, to make a donation in any amount. The process is fast, easy, & secure, & your donation is 100% tax-deductible.

If you have been moved by my story or by someone else's, or if you have faced mental illness & thoughts of suicide yourself, I hope you'll consider joining me in this worthwhile effort to give hope & save lives. You can make a donation in any amount, no matter how big or small, but if monetary support isn't in the cards for you right now, you can help me reach my goal by sharing this page on Facebook & Twitter.

Thank you for your support & your love & your kindness & your positivity. From the bottom of my almost-30-years-old heart, thank you, to so many of you, for helping me get here - & now, for helping others do the same.

Bring it on, 30. You don't scare me.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Someone Else Lives in My Apartment, Too


It was 3am on a Friday night when I got up to use the bathroom, no contacts in or glasses on. As I leaned down toward the sink to wash my face, I heard a strange, sinister rustling noise. I looked up to find that my face was inches away from a giant cockroach hanging out on the wall. I apologize for making you look at this photo, but if I have to see this thing, so do you.

I yelled, "Oh, God" a lot. I shed a few tears of anxiety. I trapped it between a glass & a Tupperware lid. I flushed it to its watery death. I sent my landlord a frantic email asking to have my apartment bug bombed as soon as humanly possible. Then I tried to fall back to sleep, but I was thoroughly convinced that every bit of noise & every feeling against my skin was one of its cockroach brethren, come to exact revenge by crawling all over me until I died in a panic of disgust & fear.

Today, I learned that you can't drown a cockroach. Today, I learned that cockroaches are attracted to water. Today, I learned  that cockroaches come up through the pipes. Today, I have been terrified of using my bathroom, taking a shower, washing my hands... basically, I live in fear of my own apartment. It's all going very well.

Not to make light of this horrifying situation, but I think I may have watched too much Men in Black.


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Time a Stranger Maybe Drew Me Like One of His French Girls


If you're open to weirdness, weirdness will always find you, especially in a city - even this city, where you envision the professional, buttoned-up likes of Olivia Pope & Barack Obama & Michele Bachmann & Jed Bartlet & whoever else the general populace associates with Washington, D.C.

This afternoon, I encountered a special & new-to-me variety of weirdness.

I sat in Meridian Hill Park reading a book in the sun, a yoga class happening next to me & "free energy healing," whatever that is, taking place a few benches down. A middle-aged man, looking appreciatively down the length of the park, turned to me & said in a thick accent, "This is a great park. I'm visiting from Florida, & I could just stay in this park all day." He asked if he could sit at the other end of my bench, & though I wanted to keep reading, I found myself chatting with him a bit.

He introduced himself as Winston, a photographer & a painter who had spent the weekend in D.C. taking strangers' portraits. "Two minutes," he told me. "It will only take two minutes."

I wasn't super-keen on talking to Winston any more, & that's when I probably should have said no, gone back to my book or just walked away. Something about him made me a little bit uncomfortable, but I told myself I was probably just being uptight, as I sometimes am, so I agreed to let him photograph me. After all, it was a public park, & there were dozens upon dozens of people around us. Maybe, I thought, this will be like Humans of New York!

Winston asked me to sit on a flight of cement steps & snapped four or five shots, some close-up & some from further away. It all seemed very normal, & I began to feel less weirded out. After a few shots, he asked me to swing one leg over the side of the stairs, sitting sideways. As I repositioned myself, he touched my foot to move it into place, & I recoiled at the unwelcome contact. Not OK.

And then it got weirder.

"Would it be OK..." be began. "Would you mind if I take a photograph of your thigh?"

HEY, HUGE RED FLAG. YES, I MIND THAT.

I gave him a firm no, & when he asked why, I told him it made me very uncomfortable. "This wouldn't be for portraits," he said, "just for me." As though that was going to make me say yes? No, Winston. No, no, no, no. As I stood up, he asked to take one more photo - a normal one - & then told me, "OK, we're all set. I told you it would be quick! Thank you so much," as though he hadn't just creeped me right the hell out.

I asked if he had a card or a website, someplace I could see his art (& yes, I recognize that I should've asked this before agreeing to be photographed). He told me he was hoping to have one soon, then he asked if I'd like to see some pictures of his work. As I stood at a safe distance, he clicked through photos of beautiful paintings, tilting them my way. "I sell these for thousands of dollars," he told me, "to very rich people."

One of the photos was Jan Vermeer's very, very famous "Girl With a Pearl Earring," painted circa 1665.

OK, Winston. That's enough. We're done here.

It was only then that I started to walk away, bidding him adieu & wishing him well while trying to effectively cut off all further communication. As I made my way toward a bench closer to the yogis & the energy healers, the last thing I heard Winston say was this: "I do nudes, too, you know. But I don't sell those in galleries."

Keep your eye out for nude paintings with my mug superimposed over them, please, as I try not to think about whatever that so-called artist is doing with photos of my face in in his private collection. And maybe just... don't talk to strangers.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

She Whose Idiocy Must Not Be Named

 

I recently used Craigslist to sell an old phone to a stranger, which is the exact sort of transaction Craigslist was made for (although much less hilarious than Missed Connections & far less sordid than Casual Encounters).

I sifted through the responses to my post & chose a buyer who seemed nice & normal & responsible, however one can determine such characteristics via email. He was willing to meet me midday near my office, in public, & I brought a coworker with me to be extra-safe.

As it turns out, said buyer was a friendly, slightly nerdy guy who couldn't have been older than 26 & who probably couldn't have taken me in a fight. He paid via PayPal, cracked jokes with my friend Alexa & me, thanked me profusely, made fun of me a little bit for including my Twitter handles in my email signature, & went on his merry way. Generally, the whole thing was an easy, hassle-free experience.

He texted a couple days later to politely suggest that the next time I sell a phone, I first wipe it clean. Cue embarrassment. First of all, who doesn't clear a phone of their personal data before selling it to a Craigslist stranger? Second of all, I thought I had! Apparently technology is not my strong suit. And finally, that cringe-inducing, panicky thought: "What the hell did I have saved on that phone?" Luckily, I'm not one for nude photos or otherwise incriminating data, so I wasn't too worried. I changed my passwords, & my Good Samaritan buyer assured me he'd deleted everything. Lesson learned for next time.

Fast-forward a few months.

A few days ago, I spent some time Googling how to get to Savannah, GA, for an August vacation. I mapped all sorts of configurations, ultimately deciding to go with Amtrak (yes, I'm literally taking a midnight train to Georgia, but that's a story for another day). Two days after my trip-planning, I got a text message from a number I didn't recognize... until I scrolled through our past text chain & realized it was the guy who bought my phone.



Many a time I've wished to be a great & powerful wizard, even an evil one, & this is one such instance. Because we all know how that story ends, right? Neither can live while the other survives.
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