Originally posted on Medium | June 28, 2020


2021-07-07 10 min read

I want to introduce you to Naomi. Now, I don’t want to mischaracterize her. The world already put enough of their stereotypes onto her. She is often misunderstood and often framed in a comical, exaggerated way. But she’s special. And I want you to really know her like I know her. She’s shrewd, definitely very intelligent and clever when she wants to be. She’s loud. She’s very loud. Naomi is the kind of person who will bring your energy way up and then leave, making you wonder if she even likes you at all, if you’ll even get a second date. She is brilliant, but she has a short temper. She can tell you the difference between “mauve” and “lavender” and will be really serious that you understand this. She doesn’t see a difference between 4 in the afternoon and 4am and will often confuse the two. She is poetic, a heartless romantic who will boldly proclaim her love for you within moments of meeting you, but then weeks later cease to show you her affection. She likes the finer things in life, to a detrimental extent to her bank account.

I wouldn’t really call Naomi my friend. But nevertheless she is with me most of the time. People seem to really like Naomi, but that often makes me feel dejected. I feel like they like her more than me. And why wouldn’t they? She’s so fun and outgoing, making everyone feel included. She’s nice. That’s what people always say. “Aw, she’s so nice to everyone.” I know. People love Naomi. She’s made it easier for me to make friends and to go to new places. She has no fear. I think that’s why people are drawn to her. But I know, from growing up with her, that’s what makes Naomi so dangerous to herself. She walks into the darkness, often. After parties, after hookups, after midnight. She boldly places herself into vulnerable situations. I think it’s because she wants to feel something and this is the quickest way to manifest feelings. (This was before she discovered drugs.) The thrill of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Naomi is really good at that. She takes risks and that often frightens me. Why did she even engage with those drunken men that night? Why did she text him all of those photos of herself? Why did she drink that entire bottle of champagne and do all of those lines? She really can never answer those questions. That’s why she scares me. She’s stronger than me, really.

But no one really knows her. And she gets upset about that and that’s why she lashes out. They know that she’s fun and they just leave it at that. They don’t know how much she needs a hug. They think the confidence is natural-born and not just the facade that it is. She’s yearning for human contact and maybe that’s what she’s looking for in those late nights, those sloppy sexual encounters, those dark corners. She just wants someone to let her not be fun. And I think I’m that person for her. Sometimes she collapses, depleted of energy from her week-, sometimes month-long, benders. And I’m always there for her. Most of the time I don’t really know what to do for her. I know she’s meant for greatness. She’s smart. Smarter than she realizes. She hates being reduced down to a “party girl” or “harbinger of fun” typecast. She’s very intelligent and doesn’t know how to broadcast that while still keeping things amenable for people. When she’s coming down off her high, our relationship is tense and intense. I don’t usually know what to do. I just try to remind her that she’s smart and beautiful and that she can do anything she puts her mind to. She’s doesn’t believe me, but I think if I keep telling her over and over, while she lies in my arms crying, weeping sometimes, that one day she will believe me.

I think she’s getting better. She warns me when she’s about to venture off on another escapade. Then I know how to prepare her landing pad. A soft blanket here, a soothing playlist there, a cabinet full of comfort foods (mainly packaged ramen). They are little things, but I know she needs them when she gets back. Now she tells me when something bothers her. She’s getting better at knowing her triggers and saying them out loud. I’m proud of her. She’s not as daunting as she used to be. I’m trying to remember when she came into my life. I think after a few therapy sessions, albeit shitty therapy sessions, I realized that Naomi has always been with me. But it wasn’t until mutual trauma brought us together. She was there with me to bring me out of my own sadness, to make sure I could still have a good time in my twenties. To make sure I felt the wind on my face and the liquor in my belly. But we both know we were just enabling each other. Well, now we know. After awhile, I really couldn’t take the late nights, the worrying if she was okay and the constant pit in my stomach about what we would do next. I didn’t know how to break it to her. I had to put our relationship on ice.

First, I tricked her into going to the therapist with me. She knew that guy was shitty. We only lasted one appointment with him. We both walked away in disgust at his audacity to ask personal questions of us while he sat there in his open-toed sandals, crusty toes abound. She convinced me that this is EXACTLY why we don’t need therapy. We got a tattoo instead. She told me that if I just branded myself happy, I would be happy! And I believed her. Now I have a tattoo I barely think about until I’m on my back under a dude who, while inside of me, asks me if it’s a Justin Bieber lyric. It is not. But now I’m branded for life in both body and mind.

But Naomi was wrong. About the tattoo for sure and the therapist. I knew that I had to do something. I mustered up my strength, which was hard in those days. And called another doctor. This doctor had a nice office, only two bus rides and a 20 minute walk away. We walked, arm in arm. I don’t think she knew where we were going. It felt like another risky adventure to her, while walking down those streets whose sidewalks cut into and out, causing us to walk on the open road to get to our destination.

We arrived and the nice white lady asked us a bunch of questions. I answered honestly and concisely. Naomi sat silent. It is amazing how subservient and well-behaved she can be around authority figures. She was so perfectly still in the doctor’s office that for a moment I thought that we didn’t have a problem and that I made a huge mistake. Maybe I completely made all of this up? Maybe Naomi is just a regular degular girl and I’m just super judgmental. I felt guilty as I sat there in the vinyl chair. I was ready for the doctor to send me away and accuse me of manipulating the medical system, of being the reason why people like me need to take two busses and a 20 minute middle-of-the-street walk to get here: that I didn’t belong there.

The doctor asked about my past. Have I been on medication before? Yes. Naomi wasn’t around then. I was tired all the time and couldn’t make it to class, couldn’t stop crying. I was drinking all the time and forgetting things I had done. You know, average things that average people experienced. It was college. Everyone was drinking and forgetting things. Everyone felt bad about themselves and their potential for achievement. This was the liberal arts experience. This wasn’t out of the ordinary. I was just tired. Everyone was tired. Everyone stayed up late and contemplated how much easier for everyone it would be if they didn’t exist. Everyone stopped brushing their hair. That was just the norm. No need to get alarmist.

But the medical center gave me pills for depression anyway. I didn’t believe they were necessary because I wasn’t depressed. I was just tired. Everyone is tired! I didn’t need pills. I mean, I took the pills, but I knew they were useless. They just made me more tired and ruined my personality. Sure, I could go to class now but I neither enjoyed nor hated anything. I found nothing funny nor deplorable. I was just hanging out in a purgatory of blandness and I could have died or not and I wouldn’t have cared. I never went back to the center. After all, I was just tired. I just needed to take a nap or sleep in. And brush my hair. I really needed to brush my hair. But I could do that eventually. No big deal. I stopped taking the pills.

She finished asking us questions and did something equivalent to throwing her glasses off, rubbing the bridge of her nose, and slowly swiveling her body around to face me. Like doctors do when something is SERIOUS. Like doctors do when they have a diagnosis but it’s going to hurt them to tell you. Actually, I don’t think it was that dramatic, but I remember it like this because it felt like this. The words she said next clunkily lumbered around in my brain. “Bipolar.” My mind instantly went to the brief stories my dad would tell me of his father coming home drunk, whistling Russian folk songs, laughing and then crying to himself in the kitchen late at night.

I looked at Naomi, who still sat there, quiet and contemplative. I don’t remember what happened next, but I ended up in a Walgreens sheepishly telling the pharmacist what I was there to pick up. His face remained emotionless to my request, but I was certain that he internally was thinking, “Look at this crazy-ass bitch who can’t even brush her hair and is ready to explode at any moment. You can SMELL the crazy on her. Ugh. INSANE PIECE OF TRASH.” I walked out of that Walgreens, blue Gatorade and Naomi-killing pills in my plastic baggy. I didn’t know what to tell her, but she looked as though she already accepted her fate. She was tired too.

So Naomi took a little break. And I got to work. I threw myself into my work, which was a very trying experience. Naomi was gone, so I needed to make up for her loss of energy with my own reserves. I didn’t even notice how toxic my work environment was because I was so focused on keeping all my emptiness together. I just thought that all the bad stuff around me was just me being hyper-sensitive to my environment now that Naomi wasn’t there to protect me. Plus, the pills just kept me from noticing how bad things were. The pills kept me in a mouse-infested apartment. The pills kept me bathing in a clogged bathtub, thinking “as long as I can shower, this is fine.” The pills also kept me close to my friends. We had normal outings, normal happy hours, normal, ordinary, routines together. The pills turned wild nights into casual dating. I was still tired because all of these things somehow didn’t feel real and it took a lot of energy to hold up the masquerade. Plus, classically, I didn’t ask for help. I do blame Naomi for this. She told me asking for help was for pussies. (I never said she was politically correct.)

As I was sinking deeper into health issues, money issues and general disaster, the pills, any pills, anything routine, became harder to manage. My pill-taking regime became more and more haphazard. (If you’re wondering, yes, this goes for birth control too. Oh, you weren’t wondering? Well there you go. Complete mess from head to toe.) Eventually I stopped taking the pills. Naomi poked her head out of the closet, where she was slyly filling a shopping cart with cheap, lacy underwear from Forever 21’s online store. She looked at me with annoying, coy eyes and said, “Ramen?” And I ate a bunch of ramen. For days. What else did I do? I don’t know. Ramen and Cheez-its. And then after a few weeks, after the panties had arrived, Naomi said, “Bitch, shave your veej, put on those neon green panties, call up your friends. We’re going OUT.”

And for the next months I pillaged my way through dance floors, mouths, tits, butts, cocks, panties, Forever 21, ramen, ramen, ramen, tequila, nudes, texts, bills, unopened bills, stealing deodorant from Target, work, still going to work, working hard, playing hard, sleeping with a coworker, whooping cough, codeine, ramen, ramen, ramen, cocks, cum, tequila, rinse, dry, repeat, crying, happy hour, crying, pizza, crying, fried chicken, crying, Obama’s reelection, kisses, crying, tequila, gay bars, crying, crying, crying.

Naomi wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t do anything without her and at least I was doing things when she was around. I got out of bed, out of the house and saw my friends. Naomi was there for me. I can’t believe I ever tried to kill her. I would have never experienced LIFE without her. Sure, she’s a little hostile and made me make out with one of my best friends after taping giant bottles of malt alcohol to both of my hands. And, sure, she made me sleep with my neighbor, even after I described his penis as looking like a “Vietnamese spring roll.” But she was still holding me down in my worst times. Even if those worst times were caused by her.

Naomi is still with me today, but she’s toned things down a bit. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly proactive, I take her to yoga. She’s generally pretty satisfied when I give her some vegetables and tell her to sleep at least 6 hours. Sometimes, she completely stays home if I tell her to meditate and drink a shit ton of water and call her friends. She begrudgingly does these things, but always feels better in the morning. It makes her cranky, but this is what we call progress. She generally keeps to herself, but sometimes if I ignore her and let myself get tangled in deadlines, appointments, classes, work, and sleepless nights, she shows up at my door, 2€ bottle of wine in hand, and purrs, “Hey, bitch. I’m back.”

Originally posted on Medium.

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