Tag 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 Too few streets have walk signals, and the ones that do exist are hopelessly out-of-date and out-of-sync.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.








New beginnings

New beginnings

My new nest

I haven’t posted for quite a while. That’s never a good way to begin a blog post, but life has been putting me through the ringer lately, and it took what little energy I had out of me.

For the better part of this year, I’ve known that I needed to find a new apartment when my lease expired. And for the better part of this year, I’ve been looking. And looking, And looking. It has been beyond frustrating. I love Boston. I have from the minute I started living here. But I’ve come to believe that there is no middle class in this city anymore. Rents all over this city have skyrocketed.

And the few affordable places I did find — well, let’s just say that I quickly learned the real estate lingo around here. “Cozy” means the apartment is the size of a closet. “Charming” means it’s a dump (but somehow, the dirt has character.) “Perfect for a grad student” means don’t even think of renting here if you’re over 30. Of course, no one will ever say that outright, because that’s illegal. But you quickly get the picture when you realize that you’re old enough to be the father of everyone in the building.

At least here in Massachusetts, if you’re a high functioning person with a mental illness, landlords can’t use that as a reason not to rent to you (unless you have a criminal record.) But while I’ve become better at hiding my depression when I need to, it has become harder and harder for me to hide my anxiety disorder. Several times, I wondered if people saw that side of me. I wondered if that was the reason I didn’t get the apartment.

I was about to give up. I was seriously considering leaving Boston. That would have meant not only saying goodbye to a city I love, but also saying goodbye to good friends, family–and my network of mental health doctors and support groups. That last one was no small matter. One of the unsung good things about Boston is that if you’re going to have a mental illness, this city is a good place to have it. Some of the best and most respected psychiatric doctors in the world train and practice here. I didn’t want to lose them.

But then I found this place–a tiny apartment in a very nice brownstone. It’s smaller than my old place, but I was prepared for that. As I said before, anything considered anywhere near affordable here is going to be small. But the apartment is bigger than a closet. I can live with that. The neighborhood is beautiful, I’m very close to public transportation (which is good, because I no longer drive), and there are lots of great (and even inexpensive) restaurants around here.

The other residents seem nice, too. They actually say hello to me, which is something of a miracle in a city where lots of people tend to be stand-offish. I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling that several of them are part of my “tribe.” When you have a mental illness, you get pretty good at picking up on others who have a mental illness. This, so far, is a big plus for me. To quote a popular tune from the musical¬†Rent, I feel like an “us” for once, instead of a “them.”

I also feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’m ready for the change. I’m ready for this new beginning.

Today, baseball, and the Boston Red Sox, make me happy

Alan Bosox cap

Me in my Opening Day headgear. Go Boston Red Sox!

Even with my depression and anxiety, there’s no way I’ll be down today.

Why? It’s opening day for Major League Baseball. No matter what happens between now and September, I know that my beloved Boston Red Sox will be a constant part of my life.

Though I’ve only lived in Boston for 10 years, I’ve always loved the Red Sox. I grew up in Miami, but that city didn’t have a team when I was little. So I adopted the Red Sox. I have relatives from Boston, but that’s not the reason I fell for the Sox. What hooked me was their penchant for feeling they were cursed.

This affliction even had a name: the Curse of the Bambino. The Sox won the World Series often during the early 1900s. But then they traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. After that, the Yankees won World Series trophies by the truckloads. But for the Sox, it was bupkis — for 86 years. Hence, the curse.

It stands to reason that I would fall for a cursed team, because even when I was little, I felt cursed myself. My depression and anxiety would not be diagnosed for years, but I sure felt different–and even shunned–from other kids my age. In my young mind, I thought that all those cursed ball players could somehow relate to me.

I moved to Boston in 2004–the same year that the Sox finally broke the curse and won the World Series. I will never forget the euphoria that swept this city afterward. I remember going to Downtown Crossing the day after the Sox won. People were still partying. A guy dressed in nothing but a white sheet introduced himself as the Ghost of Babe Ruth, and kept yelling, “you’re free now, Boston! You’re free!” It was magical.

Since then, I’ve celebrated two more World Series championships. But there have been the down times, too. Last year was especially disheartening, because the Sox wound up in last place, even though they won the World Series the year before. How, I wondered, could they be so up one season, and so down the next? And besides, I was coming out of a major depression by the time baseball season started last year. I counted on the Sox to lift my spirits. Boy, did they let me down.

But I still watched them–and I still love them. I’m there for them no matter what. I’m not one of those people who watch every single game. But it’s comforting to know that I could if I wanted to. Especially when I’m in one of my down periods, I try to think about things that make me grateful. No matter how the Sox do this season, I know that for the next few months, they’ll be constant fixtures on my list.

But as for right now — play ball!

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.

How snow memes are helping me keep my sanity

I haven’t posted in a few days. It’s not because I haven’t wanted to. It’s because I’ve been posting a lot about snow and cold lately, and I thought things might be getting a little boring.

But I live in New England, which means my world has been little else but snow and cold for the past three weeks. And according to the weather forecast, there’s no immediate end in sight. So, forgive me for posting again about cold and snow, but it sure is on my mind. I’m starting to forget what grass looks like.

There aren’t many, but I do think there are some upsides to living in a “giant snow farm.” I’m sick and tired of this winter, but I know damn well I’m not the only one. I know that because everyone I know who lives here will tell you how sick and tired they are of it, too. Like so many others with depression and anxiety, I tend to think that I’m the only one feeling so frustrated when I’m in a deep funk. In an odd way, this collective frustration is kind of comforting. I swear, the only people in Boston who are happy right now are skiers and roofing contractors.

I also take comfort in humor, and thanks to Facebook, I’ve seen a lot of snow memes that have made me smile. Several friends — most of whom live in the warm South — put them right on my timeline. I’m glad they do. These memes are helping me keep what little sanity I still have right now. Here are some of my favorites.


Hanging on to hope

Yesterday, I posted about my tough time coping with Boston’s record snowfall. In the past two weeks, we’ve seen 6 feet of the white stuff, and no, I am not exaggerating.

We all have our ways of coping, or not coping. Most people I know–myself included–have been complaining. A lot. That’s why a Facebook post from one of my friends stuck out for me yesterday. It simply read:

The Boston Red Sox equipment truck heads out for spring training in Florida on Thursday.

Mind you, that’s not that spring training is starting, or that the Red Sox themselves are leaving for Florida. Their EQUIPMENT TRUCK is heading out.

“This guy’s really grasping at straws,” I thought to myself. Just then, one of his friends responded with, “Yeah, the truck will leave–WEATHER PERMITTING.”

I knew I couldn’t top that, so I didn’t. But my friend has the right idea. Even if he is grasping, he’s hanging on to hope–and reminding us that, even if we don’t believe it now, spring will come very soon. It sounds corny, but I see a parallel with my depression. When I’m in one of my dark periods, I think it will never end. But just like the snow and the winter, it does.

Instead of telling my friend that he was grasping at straws, I responded by thanking him for reminding me that this winter will soon come to an end. It was something I really needed to hear.

This winter is kicking my ass

15619_10204823417482855_8140067961443681499_nAs I write this, Boston is getting blasted with another two feet of snow. This is on top of the three feet we already have, and there may be more coming later this week. To say it’s affecting my mental health is an understatement.

Right off the bat, I’ll say that it could be a lot worse. I’m in an apartment with heat, electricity, food, and internet access. Many people can’t say that. But still, as I look out my window and see almost nothing but snow, I can’t get over the feeling that this winter is really kicking my ass mentally.

I’d say the big reason for this is that it knocks me out of my routine. Change in any form–even when it’s weather related–is not easy for me. Even when I do go out now, it’s a challenge. Many of Boston’s streets are narrow to begin with. Even if people are shoveling their sidewalks, there’s just nowhere to put it when it snows like this. That means that walking paths are narrow. Among my many fears, I’m slightly claustrophobic, so the snow banks on either side of me feel like they’re taller than they already are.

Really, I love the Boston area, and I don’t mind normal amounts of snow. But this? It makes me wish I was a bear so I could hibernate all winter. Shakespeare was so right when he wrote:

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!

Yeah, I know it’s February, but you get the point. For me, spring cannot come soon enough.