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This Too Shall F*cking Pass

A story of medication and mental illness.


I was hungover, laying face-first in my friend Dayna's bed on the North Fork of Long Island, braless and gamey when the dreaded "DING!" of an incoming text message sent a rush of panic flooding through my body.


Digital communication terrifies me.


But I'm a digital girl living in a digital world, you see. This means I spend a lot of time dry-heaving in the fetal position. Luckily, my cortisol levels ~gorgeously~ dropped when I *noticed* it was my darling and charismatic brother Blake who'd messaged me.


And then those pesky stress hormones swelled to the size of the Empire State Building when I came to the realization that he was texting me about My Voicemail.™


I stared into the static glare of my phone with the disassociated deadness of a trauma survivor.


"CHANGE YOUR VOICEMAIL NOW," read the text.


A cold shiver snaked down my spine.


DING! The destabilizing sound penetrated my ears yet again.


It sounded loud and jarring; unnecessary and dangerous. Like a gunshot firing through a suburban mall on an otherwise boring day.


"CALL ME WHEN YOU CAN AND PLEASE CHANGE YOUR OUTGOING MESSAGE. I CAN'T EMOTIONALLY HANDLE GOING THROUGH IT AGAIN. IT'S TRAUMATIC."


My heart came to a screeching halt. A cast of fears that had been long asleep in a snow-white coma awakened. They sprang from their beds teeming with more life than ever before. My brain flashed back to the beginning of the week.


Tuesday, specifically. When I'd had a ZOOM appointment with my psychiatrist.


For the record, my psychiatrist isn't typical. Most men who dedicate their lives to the pharmaceutical arts are scientific—stream-lined and dry as the Sahara.


My guy is abstract—quirky with emoting eyes as misty as an Irish morning. He used to be a lauded opera singer. He wants desperately to go back to performing, try stand-up, sing an Italian aria at an open mic. I always tell him that it's never too late to go after your creative dreams, which makes his whole face glitter and beam like the sun.


We spend most of my $240-an-hour sessions gossiping about what iteration of social disorder we think the megalomaniac politician of the moment should be diagnosed with. He always tells me about his girlfriend's ongoing struggle to get fit. I've never consistently exercised in my life but always dutifully recommend a bevy of workouts I think she'd enjoy and he dutifully jots them down in the Louis Vuitton notebook that never leaves his lap. He claims not to be gay, but his $1500 Louis Vuitton notebook tells me otherwise. Plus, with his artic blue bambi eyes and swollen mauve lips, he's much too pretty to be straight.


But maybe that's just my heterophobia talking.


I had made an appointment with my seemingly homosexual psychiatrist because this new medication I'd been taking for the past month, TRINTELLIX (an SSRI) hadn't been working you see. By which I mean, I felt as if my emotions had been thrown down a flight of stairs. Like a swarm of anxious bees were buzzing through my chest. Like I'd shot up my veins up depression.


And I'd done *many* things since starting TRINTELLIX.


I recorded my audiobook.


Switched to a paler foundation shade.



Turned the Vitamix on without securing the cap closed and ended up with ghee butter in my hair on the ceiling in my dog's fur.


Spent $14.99 on a red-colored toothpaste from France that Cat Marnell recommended on her Patreon column: BEAUTY SHAMBLES. Blood-stained a new thong. Got called a "STUPID FUCKING CUNT" by a man swinging a crack-pipe on the corner of 42nd and 9th.


But you know what I *hadn't* done since taking Trintellix? Injected depression into my body. 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.


"The doctor will call you right away" the assistant responded immediately.


And he did call me.


Except I was in the middle of a meeting—a work meeting—and couldn't exactly pick up the phone and start blabbing to my psych doctor about the rhetorical anxiety bees swarming my insides.


And I couldn't call him back after the meeting because he has a restricted number, understandably. When your clientele is made up of mentally ill prescription drug enthusiasts—you 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 a.m. if he were to give out his personal phone number.


But here's where ~yours truly~ found herself in a bit of trouble. Dr. Feelgood couldn't leave me a voicemail schooling me on how to reach him.


Why?


Good question.


Well, because I'd been in a place where I couldn't emotionally handle voicemails. If text messages cloak me with pending doom—voicemails sent me into cardiac arrest in those days. When people reached out to me, informing me that they'd been unable to leave me a message because my voicemail box wasn't set up yet, I'd lie.


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


But my psychiatrist wasn't buying it. Despite his dreams of being a performer, he still managed to go to med school. He's not as dumb as rocks like me and the rest of my art school friends.


When he finally reached me during our scheduled ZOOM appointment the next day, 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 a lie flew out of my mouth before I even had the opportunity to consent.


"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 I was on Broadway.


He wasn't buying my Judy Garland. "So. You don't have a voicemail because you can't set it up?" He asked suspiciously. "I see."


He scribbled in his flamboyant Louis Vuitton notebook. I imagined him writing "pathological liar" on a page marked as ZARA. An awkward moment of silence passed between us. It was such a long stretch of dense silence a mentally ill angel got her wings.


I guess my lie wasn't exactly believable as I run websites for a living and am objectively tech-savvy and even a deplorable dumb fuck who authentically believes Fox News is "fair and balanced" can figure out how to set up a fucking voicemail.


It's not exactly rocket science.


Regardless, my gay-seeming doctor left me off the hook. We changed the subject and 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 a fabulous crocodile clutch. Made it so I was able to answer the phone and wash my hair regularly and do normal activities we depressed people find so...harrowing.


And then I stopped taking Lexapro because I convinced myself it was making me fat.


It wasn't making me fat. I had just googled "Lexapro weight gain" one night during a dark bout of insomnia and found a million message boards full of mentally ill people complaining about how Lexapro had made them blow up like the seven-story balloons you see at the Macy's Day Parade. Because, I too, am mentally ill, I got it in my head that Lexapro was making me blow up too, and I stopped taking it.


Stupid and problematic, I know. But don't victim-shame me, babe. I came of age when collarbones were a more coveted accessory than a diamond necklace.


Anyway. Me and my doc began diagnosing Ivanka and by the end of our session, I was starting to feel much, much better. I'm going to reclaim my life on Lexapro I smugly thought to myself. A tiny sliver of light twinkled beatifically from a tiny opening in the blackout curtains of my mind. I suddenly felt hopeful. New meds, new me and whatnot.


And then *right* as I was about to hang up the phone and skip into the serotonin-filled sunshine on my future—Mr. "Straight" Opera Singing 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 throwing shade at bipolar disorder.


I have lots of brilliant, creative, and fabulously magnetic friends with bipolar disorder.


But it *was* a heavy mic drop in which to abruptly end a conversation. Especially when the patient you're dealing with is currently hopped up on the wrong psychotropic drugs and has told you that her emotions have been knocked down a flight of fucking stairs...


I suddenly felt very afraid.


And very out of control.


And very worried that sweet, simple 'ole faithful Lexapro would fail me and I'd become a person who requires a complex cocktail of pricey pharmaceuticals (that inevitably turn on her) just to make it through the day.


So I decided, right there in my small New York City bedroom, that I would set up my voicemail box. If I can't control my mental health, at least I can control how I present to the outer world. If I can handle doing something regular folk do—like successfully setting up a voicemail box without having a full-fledged breakdown that culminates in a trip to the local mental ward—


then what could possibly be so terribly wrong with me?


With the shaking hands of a midtown junkie, I managed to record a voicemail greeting.


I tried to sound cheerful and enthusiastic—but really I just wanted to swallow a handful of Xanax and take a nap from life for a while. But I was a theatre major! Which means I've cultivated the acting chops one needs in order to pull off sounding happy and normal even when their mind feels like the inside of a cave. Right?


I don't know.


In full transparency, I couldn't bring myself to listen to what I'd just recorded. In fact, in that fragile moment —I'd sooner taken a bubble bath with Rudy Giuliani than listen to the sound of my own voice.


But thanks to modern medicine, within a few business days, I was weaning off the Trintellex and started to feel a little less banged up inside. Less like I'd been ruthlessly thrown down a flight of stairs and more like taken a humble little trip down the sidewalk and was a tad bruised up but going to be okay. In fact, I forgot all about the voicemail incident.


Instead, I hopped on the Hampton Jitney (the most glamorous mode of public transportation) and traveled a few hours out of the city to see Dayna on the chic North Fork of Long Island. I was too distracted by the onslaught of Christmas decor in Dayna's home and her new collection of designer bags she'd recently inherited from her late grandmother to think about how sad I'd been, or how disenchanted the failure of Trintellex had rendered me, or about dark voicemail greetings and all the rest of that sad girl bullshit that plagues my Hebrew soul so.


But Blake quickly reminded me of how sour things had truly become in typical Big Brother fashion. I called him right away.


"Blake, is my voicemail really that bad? I asked, desperate, needing my big heroic brother to swoop into the scene and assure me all was fine and dandy in my brain and life.


"It's so bad it makes me uncomfortable," Blake sighed, woefully, into the phone.


Nothing makes my brother uncomfortable. He once wrote me a long-form letter detailing all the times he has defecated his pants as an adult. His favorite movie is "Happiness" a deeply uncomfortable, twisted "comedy" about a pedophile who is also a therapist who is also a father. He lives in the most uncomfortable town of all: Hollywood and works in the most uncomfortable industry of all: Show business.


Blake continued. "It sounds like someone who is suicidal trying to rebrand their life."


Dayna began sociopathically cackling in the background. She looked like a movie star in her royal blue floor-length robe. I looked like an influencer who's just decided to ruin her image and career after discovering Ketamine, in my dirty tie-dye sweatsuit and swollen red eyes.


"I have to hear this voicemail," Dayna purred running a razor-sharp acrylic through her thousand-dollar hair extensions. She pulled out her phone and called me. I held my breath, braced myself, and preemptively shivered like I was gearing up for an ice bath.


Dayna pumped the volume up on her phone and put it on speaker because she knew I needed to face the reality of the voicemail that had made my sick and twisted brother feel traumatized and uncomfortable.


And here's the actual Voicemail I was forced to reckon with. Listen to it for yourself if you want to feel discomfort in your core.





And I (still) agree with Blake. This voicemail greeting is officially the darkest thing I've ever heard in my life. There's dead air—as if I spaced out due to a strange neurological event—mid-sentence. I even tell the listener to have a "beautiful day." If someone signs an email or ends a voicemail greeting with "have a beautiful day" that person is not okay. They need help immediately. They are on the verge of showing up to work sobbing in Hello Kitty merch.


"This literally sounds like a voicemail someone would leave right before they jump out of a window," I lamented. I know, I know. You think I'm making an insensitive joke about suicide, but I'm not. That's what I sound like. The truth can be fucking dark, babe. I envisioned people nodding in collective understanding when they heard I was going away for "30 days" due to "exhaustion."


"There was something off about her voicemail message." I imagined concerned friends hushing to one another over beers.


I felt the hot flush of embarrassment redden my cheeks.


I had hoped that maybe I'd convinced people I was DOING JUST GREAT by setting up an enthusiastic voicemail.


I just wanted everyone to have a beautiful day, guys.


"I have to re-record my voicemail," I said to Dayna who was now rolling around on the ground, laughing her ass off at my suicidal-sounding voicemail message. I swear even hear her cat "Bad Girl Ri Ri" chuckling in solidarity.


"Whatever, you shit in a litter box." I sneered at Ri Ri under my breath. Cats can be very condescending considering they shit in a box.


"But you know what? I really can't re-record my voicemail until the Lexapro kicks in. I won't get a sane message until I'm sane." I quipped to no one in particular.


Dayna just looked at me and popped a Wellbutrin into her mouth. I looked back at her and realized we're all just crazy bitches doing our damn best, desperately trying to do whatever the hell we can to keep those mentally ill demons at bay.


I grinned and popped Lexapro into my mouth, remembering that this too shall fucking pass.


My debut book GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP: THE BAD GIRL’S GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR SH*T TOGETHER is available NOW on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and BAM! If you send me a screenshot of your order, I’ll send you swag!


 

Want to live up to your bad bitch potential? Check out:








Praise for GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP


“Zara has the rare talent of marching into the deepest, darkest moments of life—the mascara-teared and alcohol-soaked—scooping them up, and thrusting them into the light with amazing clarity, forgiveness, and compassion. As her editor at Elite Daily, I had the honor of watching Zara blossom into the emotionally raw and poetic writer she is now. Her gripping first-person narratives help every woman (including me) come to terms with her own demons or insecurities in a refreshingly comfortable way. There’s a reason she’s built up an army of ‘babes’ who are empowered by the words of their dear big sister, Z: Her candid honesty and no bullshit advice are simply addicting.”

– Faye Brennan, Sex & Relationships Director, Cosmopolitan


“Reading Zara is like reading your own thoughts—only sexier and much more brilliantly written.”

– Kaitlyn Cawley, former Editor-At-Large, Bustle Media Group and former Editor-in-Chief, Elite Daily


“Reading Zara’s writing will make you feel like you’re at your cool-as-hell big sister’s sleepover party. You will be transfixed by her unflinching honesty and words of wisdom, and she’ll successfully convince you to not only ditch the shame you feel about the raw and messy parts of yourself, but to dare to see them as beautiful.”

– Alexia LaFata, Editor, New York Magazine


“If Cat Marnell and F. Scott Fitzgerald had a literary baby it would be Zara Barrie. She’s got Marnell’s casual, dark, downright hilarious tone of an irreverent party girl. But then she also has Fitzgerald’s talent for making words literally feel like they sparkle on the page. You instantly feel more glamorous after reading a page of Zara’s writing, even when the page is talking about getting into a screaming match with her girlfriend outside of a bar on a Sarasota street corner while high on benzos. I’ve always been a fan of Zara’s writing, but Girl, Stop Passing Out in Your Makeup takes it to the next level. With shimmery words that make her dark stories sparkle, she seamlessly manages to inspire even the most coked-out girl at the party to get her shit together.”

– Candice Jalili, Senior Sex & Dating Writer, Elite Daily


“Self-help meets memoir. Party girl meets wise sage. Beauty meets reality. Zara Barrie is the cool older sister you wish you had. The one that lets you borrow her designer dresses and ripped up fishnets, buys you champagne (she loves you too much to let you drink beer), and colors your lips with bright pink lipstick. She’ll take you to the coolest parties, and will stick by your side and she guides you through the glitter, pain, danger, laughter, and what it means to be a f*cked up girl in this f*cked up world (both of which are beautiful despite the darkness). Girl, Stop Passing Out in Your Makeup is for the girls that are too much of a beautiful contradiction to be contained. Zara is a gifted writer—one second she’ll have you laughing over rich girls agonizing over which Birkin bag to buy, the next second she’ll shatter your heart in one sentence about losing one’s innocence. Zara is the nuanced girl she writes for—light, irreverent, snarky, bitchy, funny; and aching, perceptive, deep, flawed, wise, poised, honest—all at once. Perhaps the only thing that can match Zara’s unparalleled wit and big sister advice is her candid humor and undeniable talent for the written word. Zara is one of the most prolific and entertaining honest voices on the internet—and her talent is only multiplied in book form. Girl, Stop Passing Out in Your Makeup is for the bad girls, honey.”

– Danya Troisi, Executive Editor, GO Magazine

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