The Voicemail

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"You need to change your voicemail." My brother Blake texted me yesterday morning.


I had a mild hangover and was laying in Dayna and Vanessa's bed on the North Fork of Long Island. The night before Dayna and I each had two dirty Martinis and three glasses of wine at dinner. A dinner in which we only ordered oysters and escargot because we weren't "hungry" — which always bites you in the ass in the end. We wound up dunking organic cheese puffs directly into yellow plastic tubs of "vegan" butter at 2 AM.


Anyway, I was literally sandwiched between the two of them in last night's eye makeup (yes, I wrote a book called GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP, and yes I still pass out in my makeup) ice-rolling my face, bra-less and gamey because I have no boundaries.


Like usual, a shot of anxiety zapped through my body when the dreaded text DING sounded off. Digital communication is one of my most acutely-distressing phobias and text messages fill me with so much panic, I find myself dry-heaving several times a day.


My cortisol levels beautifully dropped when I saw it was my darling and charismatic (and equally mentally ill brother) Blake who had messaged me. And then those pesky stress hormones spiked right back up when I came to the realization that he was texting me about My Voicemail.™


I stared into the static glare of my phone with cold eyes. (A trauma response).


"I have notes on your voicemail."


A shiver ran down my spine.


DING! The text alert sound penetrated my frail ears yet again.


It sounded like a gunshot.


"Call me when you can and change your outgoing message. I can't go through listening to it again, it's traumatic."


The wild train that is my heart came to an abrupt stop. In that moment so many of the fears that I bury deep inside my bones sprouted to the surface.


Let me explain: Just last Tuesday I had a phone appointment with my psychiatrist. My psychiatrist is a rare breed of doctor. An unusual choice for the pharmaceutical arts. He's a classically-trained opera singer and has dabbled in stand-up comedy. We gossip about things like the rising rents in Montclair, New Jersey, and what kind of social disorders we think Trump has. I recommend workouts to his girlfriend and he jots them down in a Kelly green notebook. He says he's not gay but I think he's too pretty to be straight. But maybe that's just my heterophobia talking.


I had made an appointment with my possibly homosexual psychiatrist because this new medication I'm on, TRINTELLIX (an SSRI) has not been working. It's not just not working, it was making me feel like I was body-slammed down a flight of stairs, had cracked every rib and broken every bone.


And I've done many things since I started taking TRINTELLIX: I released an audiobook, I collaborated with a painter on a killer project, I switched to a paler foundation shade, I read Andy Cohen's memoir, I turned the Vitamix on without the cap and ended up with ghee butter in my hair-on-the-ceiling-in-my-pet's-fur, I bled through a new ice-blue lace thong, I spent $14.99 on a toothpaste from France that Cat Marnell recommended on her Patreon column "BEAUTY SHAMBLES," I subscribed to Patreon for the first time, I broke our expensive electric tea kettle, I shivered and dined outside in the West Village, I got called a "STUPID FUCKING CUNT" by a homeless gentleman on the corner of 42nd and 9th, I devoured an entire tray of lasagna the day after thanksgiving with my mom, I got Botox injected into my forehead and in the outer corners of my eyes, I started wearing red lipstick (Chanel Pirate Red), I watched the movie "Happiest Season" on Hulu and wept, I dreamt about writing for The L Word Reboot, I went to see master colorist Kaitlin at The Sanctuary Salon in Greenpoint and left with blue-black hair that shines like the top of the Chrysler building.



Big eyes brought to you by mental illness, big lips brought to you by injector Jeff.


But you know what I didn't do since taking Trintellix? Get shoved down a flight of stairs.

So clearly the meds were fucking with my head. I didn't even want to get out of bed.


Two days before Thanksgiving I emailed my psychiatrist's assistant telling her that my mind felt like the inside of a cave. Like proverbial blackout curtains had been drawn in my brain and everything was pitch dark. This is particularly jarring because I'm afraid of the dark on top of being depressed, obsessive, and anxious.


"This is the darkest I've felt in a long time." I ended the email, dramatically.


"The doctor will call you right away" the assistant responded immediately, which was very warm for her. She's a cold fish, but I guess one has to be when dealing with mentally ill patients.


And he did call me.


Except I was in the middle of a meeting, a work meeting at that, and couldn't exactly pick up and wax poetic over how forlorn I am and how meaningless my existence has become. And I couldn't call him back because he has a restricted number, understandably. When you're treating whack jobs for a living you really don't want them to have access to you 24/7. I can't imagine the surplus of Upper East Side moms that would be manically drunk texting him for Adderall refills at 2 AM if he gave out his personal phone number.


But here's where I got into trouble. He couldn't leave me a voicemail telling me how to reach him.

Because here's the truth: I've been in a place where I can't emotionally handle voicemails. If text messages fill me with paralyzing panic and all-consuming fear, voicemails send me into cardiac arrest. Seriously. My arms go numb, I tingle from head to toe and my vision gets blurry. When people have reached out to me, informing me that they are unable to leave me a message because my voicemail box isn't set up yet, I lie. Lying comes easily to me, it always has.


"I know! There's something wrong with my phone! I'm working on it!" I'll chirp, feigning normalcy.

But when I finally got on the phone with the psychiatrist he chewed me out.


"I need to give you some advice. YOU NEED A VOICEMAIL. I KNOW YOUR GENERATION HATES VOICEMAILS, BUT THIS WAS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY AND I COULDN'T REACH YOU."


Look. I *would've* told him the truth (perhaps) but I went straight into fight or flight mode and a lie flew out of my mouth faster than a cheetah killing her prey in the dead of a Saharan night.


"I know, I know! It's a new phone and I'm really struggling to figure out how to set up the voicemail!" I belted like a Broadway star.


He wasn't buying my Judy Garland impression. "So you don't have it because you're having trouble setting it up? I see." He asked suspiciously.


I imagined him writing "pathological liar" in my file. An awkward moment of silence passed between us. It was such a long moment of dense silence a mentally ill angel got her wings. I guess my lie wasn't exactly believable as I work on the internet and am pretty tech-savvy and even an imbecile with a low IQ who believes Fox News is indeed "fair and balanced" can figure out how to set up a fucking voicemail. It's not exactly rocket science, sluts!


Regardless he left me off the hook. We decided it was time I go back on Lexapro since it was the first antidepressant I ever took and it transformed my life from a trash bag into an embellished clutch. Made it so I was able to keep my closet clean and shower regularly and do normal activities depressed people find so harrowing.


And then I went off it because I thought it was making me fat. It wasn't making me fat. I had just googled "Lexapro Weight Gain" one night on a whim and found a million message boards full of mentally ill people complaining about how Lexapro had made them blow up like balloons. Because, I too, am mentally ill I got it in my head that Lexapro was making me pork out too, and I stopped taking it. (Dumb I know! I was 25! Plus this culture gave me these issues. Don't victim blame me).


But anyway, I was starting to feel much better toward the end of our call. I'm going to reclaim my life on Lexapro I thought to myself. I was sitting in the bathroom because I take all my calls in the bathroom these days (not on the toilet, don't worry). A tiny beam of light burst through the blackout curtains of my mind. I suddenly felt hopeful for the future. I thought I was in the clear. New meds, new me.


And then right as I was about to hang up the phone and skip into the serotonin sunshine Mr. Psychiatrist was all: "Have you ever been screened for bipolar disorder? SSRIs don't seem to be working for you lately, so um, let's get you screened if the Lexapro doesn't work out, okay? BYE!" Click.


I'm not bipolar shaming. Not at all. But that's a ~heavy~ mic drop to end a conversation. I suddenly felt very afraid and out of control and worried that Lexapro would fail me and I would need a complex cocktail of psychotropic drugs in order to function. So I decided, right there in my small New York bathroom, that I would set up my voicemail box. If I can't control my mental health I can control my phone! If I can handle setting up a voicemail box, surely, everything will be Beautiful and Nothing Will Hurt. With the shaking hands of a midtown junkie, I managed to record a voicemail greeting.


I tried to sound cheerful but I really just wanted to swallow a handful of Xanax and take a nap from life for awhile. I don't even remember what I said. I completely disassociated. And I swear to Lana Del Rey, I couldn't bring myself to listen to what I had just recorded either. At that particular moment, I'd sooner take a bubble bath with Rudy Giuliani than listen to the sound of my own voice.