Category Archives: Boston

Fear and crossing the street in Boston

Boston traffic

This is what I often face when I cross streets in Boston. No wonder I’m afraid. 

“Show no fear!”

That’s what a young hipster girl with short cropped red hair shouted at me as I tried to cross a busy street. It was a two-lane street with cars going in the same direction, and there was a lot of traffic. A driver slowed down and signaled me to cross. I said no. I never agree to this when there are two lanes of traffic going the same way, because who knows if the driver in the other lane will be as kind.

Yet another driver signaled for me to cross. Yet again, no way. Then I third driver. Uh uh. I looked and saw traffic coming as far as I could see. And I thought that I needed to make a move if I was ever going to get across this street.

That’s when Hipster Girl shouted at me. I guess in her own way, she meant to be helpful. Still, this just isn’t a good thing to say to someone with Anxiety Disorder. Of course, she had no clue that I have Anxiety Disorder, though she must have seen the fear on my face. If only I could tell Hipster Girl that I am afraid — not only of crossing the street, but of a million other things. Telling me to show no fear is like telling Donald Trump to show some class.

I must say, though, that when it comes to crossing streets in Boston, I honestly believe that my anxiety is justified. Boston prides itself with being one of America’s most walkable cities — until you have to cross a street. Too few streets have walk signals, and the ones that do exist are hopelessly out-of-date and out-of-sync. Here’s an old Boston joke. How do you cross the street in Boston? You run for your life and pray.

But in this situation, I stood like a statue. Hipster Girl noticed.

“Show no fear!”

Oh, how I’d like to. Girl, you have no idea.

But, as embarrassed as I was, I slowly stepped from the sidewalk and on to the street. I got bold. And drivers did yield to me. I made it across the street.

I should thank Hipster Girl for giving me a jolt. But I face anxiety in some way just about every waking hour.

“Show no fear!”

Maybe I need to remember that voice. Maybe I need to tell myself this over and over. Maybe if I do this long enough, I’ll actually believe it.







This one’s for John

Today, one of my best friends told me he has colon cancer. I can’t say I was totally surprised. It’s been a hot summer here, and about two weeks ago, I saw John with his shirt buttons open. His rib cage looked as though it was about to pop out of his chest. John is skinny to begin with, but I knew then that something was wrong. When one gets that thin, there’s a problem.

John said the cancer is at least at stage 3. He has to wait about 10 days for test results to come back before he knows if it’s at stage 4. The second I got home, I looked up colon cancer survival rates. Between stages 3 and 4, they drop off dramatically. He’s nervous about waiting so long for results, and I can’t blame him.

You never want to hear news like this, but I was glad he told me. I was also glad that he cried when he told me. In cases like this, crying is healthy–and needed. John felt so much better afterward. I only wish I could have cried with him. For me, the tears had to wait until I was alone. It always has been difficult for me to cry around people. I wish I could change that.

John wants to fight this. He is already part of a cancer survivors group. I was so glad to hear this. Like me, John has chronic depression. Like me, John has attempted suicide. But now, he wants to fight. That’s proof to me that he really does he really does not want to kill himself.

I’ve often thought that if I were diagnosed with a serious illness, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I have told myself “I want to die anyway, so an illness would be my excuse.” But, spending time with John today, I realize how wrong–and stupid–it is to think that way.

John is doing the best he can to absorb this news, but there is still so much he wants to do. He wants to spend time with his grown sons. He wants to see every classic movie he possibly can. More than anything, he wants to get Bernie Sanders elected President. As he told me today, “I want to help Bernie start a revolution. I’m a child of the ’60s. I love revolutions!”

Alone now, I cry for John. But I’m not going to tell him that. I’m just going to be there for him. The Last Picture Show is playing on the big screen here in Boston next week. We both love that movie.

We’re going to go see it. That’s all there is to it.

Trash talk

snow-on-park-ave-with-garbageThis morning, I was able to take some of my trash out for collection.

I know what you’re thinking: big deal.

Well, for me it was a big deal. Thanks to the still ongoing Snowmaggedon engulfing Boston this winter, my sidewalks (which are narrow to begin with) have been consumed by snow banks that have been as tall as six feet. Just putting the trash out on the curb was impossible, because there was no curb. The snow-covered all of it. And for good measure, the snow is still covering one of my trash bins. At this point, I don’t think I’ll see it until spring. As a result, it’s been one full month since my trash was collected.

As far as my mental health goes, this could not have happened at a worse time. Like many creative, mentally ill people, I do have issues with clutter. And I was doing so well with chipping away at that clutter–until this month, when I couldn’t even take my trash out. It was so frustrating. I wanted to get better at something, but elements beyond my control halted that.

But yesterday, I ran into a neighbor who taught me the fine art of maneuvering big trash bins in between parked cars in the snow. It’s not easy. You have to place them where sanitation workers can get to them, but they also have to be placed in such a way that they won’t tip over and ding cars–or people. Well, it took me a while to do this, but I did it. I’ve rarely been so happy to see an empty trash bin. Now, I will be able to resume my de-clutterizing, and start filling that bin up again.

Mother Nature is giving me plenty of battles this winter, but she will not defeat me. Neither will my depression and anxiety.

Winning the race against mental illness stigma



Yesterday, I participated in the (Bost0n) Transformation Center’s annual 5k run/walk for mental wellness. Before my mental demons got the best of me, I was a runner for many years, so I’m quite the veteran of 5ks. But this was my first race that benefited anything concerning mental health.

I could not have asked for a better morning. I participated with two of my best friends. Temperatures were in the 80s, but there was no humidity, and there was a gentle breeze throughout. And, this being fall in New England, leaves on towering trees were already bright red and yellow. The race itself took place on Jamaica Pond, part of Boston’s famed Emerald Necklace of tree-lined parks and walking paths. The Emerald Necklace was conceived by Frederick Law Olmstead, the famous landscape architect who was also created New York’s Central Park. Olmstead was brilliantly creative–and he had bouts with mental illness. So it was appropriate that a run benefiting mental health services would take place here.

Still, I couldn’t help noticing a big difference between this event and other 5ks. Though more than 100 runners and walkers participated, no one had their camera phones out. I thought of taking mine out, but I didn’t dare. There seemed to be an unwritten rule against it. Even though this was a mental WELLNESS race, there is no question there is still a stigma about being associated in any way with anything “mental”–even if it involves fun and great exercise. I faced this even before the race. When I tried to get one of my cousins to participate, he ignored my calls, emails and texts. People would tell me he’s “probably busy.” But something tells me that if this was a 5k for just about anything else, I would have at least gotten my texts answered.

I could have been bitter about that, but I wasn’t. I was too busy enjoying the morning with friends who DID participate. I was one of the walkers this time. It has been years since I ran, and I did not want to take a chance on getting injured. But I participated. I was in the race. That’s what mattered. This run is only in its third year–and participation more than doubled over last year’s event.

I hope events like this continue to grow. Because those endorphins do wonders for our mental health. And because, by showing the world that we can be active and have FUN, we are easing that enormous stigma somewhat. I am proud of my participation–so proud that I’m showing my face, and the medal I got just for finishing the race. I’m keeping the medal next to my bed. I still have trouble getting up in the morning, but when I do, it’s one of the first things I now see.



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