I Am Anxious... Melissa Bond
The author of 'Blood Orange Night' talks accidental addiction, her world getting smaller, and growing up with an anxious mother.
Melissa Bond is an author, performer and provocateur. Above and beyond all that, she's a humanitarian and a believer in the goodness of people when they're not crippled by doubt, anxieties, or trauma.
Her excellent memoir Blood Orange Night: A Memoir of Insomnia, Motherhood, and Benzos is now available in paperback, which includes a new, bonus chapter.
“It details my shocking dependence upon doctor prescribed benzodiazepines that very nearly took my life and my crawl back that made me feel like a fucking champion. Once I'd gotten there. The process, however, was brutal.”
How long have you been an anxious person?
I'm not an anxious person. At least, I never was until I was prescribed high doses of Ativan, one of the new generation of benzodiazepines that are like a hammer pharmaceutical. The dose I was on could likely take down a horse. After taking them, as prescribed by my doctor, every night for a year, I suddenly couldn't look cashiers in the eye. I couldn't be in crowds. A crush of theatergoers or a concert would send me into a full body panic. So, I get it. I didn't get the crush of anxiety before but now — I definitely get it.
What is your earliest memory of being anxious?
Being 41 with two children under the age of two at a Little Gym class and being sure I was going to puke on one of their nice, bright red vinyl mats.
Have you ever experienced a panic attack?
What are some of your anxiety triggers? What makes you most anxious?
I'm not anxious anymore, but when I was on benzodiazepines, the very act of going to the grocery store for milk and grapes would leave me heaving in the parking lot.
How do you feel physically and emotionally when you’re anxious?
Like a volcano. I couldn't contain myself. I couldn't rein anything in.
What do you do when you feel anxious? How do you take care of yourself in those situations? Do you have any anxiety management tips or tricks?
If my nerves get jangly now, I make sure to exercise, take time alone (I call it "let the flower fold in time"), sleep, and go to acupuncture if I can make it.
How do you feel your anxiety affects your family, friends, and overall social life?
I'm good now. Back then, my life was like a slowly closing lens on an old camera. My world got smaller and narrower until it felt like there was little left.
When you're not feeling anxious (simply in your day-to-day life), what do you do for self care?
Same as when I am. I eat right, exercise, try not to overexert, and make sure I get enough sleep. When all else fails, take a big swath of alone time with an epsom salt bath and no one calling my name.
How do you feel about the portrayal of mental health and anxiety in Pop Culture (books, movies, music, etc)? Do you feel it's accurate?
I feel the conversation has gotten much more real as of late, which is a good and beautiful thing. I also feel that we still pathologize far too much and that there's some glamorization of mental health disorders, especially in social media that surrounds teens. And despite the greater conversation, there's still some "othering" of people that suffer. We don't quite know how to support them, so the conversation can still be one of placating or avoidance.
What are some of your favorite examples of Pop Culture that gets anxiety and mental health right?
Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon is a stunner.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
The stories we create in our heads are just stories. If we can see that, we can see that our reactions are just reactions to those stories, not to what's really happening.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I was raised by a mother with panic attacks. I've seen how hard they can be. I wish she'd had help. She self medicated and if she'd not been consumed by shame, she would have likely been more inclined to get help.
I want anyone that suffers to not be imbued with shame. The secrecy of shame is toxic. People are beautiful at their core. Sometimes it just takes a while to get back there.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity.
Thank you so much, Melissa, for sharing so much and for writing such a moving, enlightening book.
If you haven’t read Blood Orange Night yet, I highly recommend it. Now’s the perfect time to grab a copy in paperback with the new bonus chapter.
Thanks again, Melissa!
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Be well and keep talking.
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DISCLAIMER: I am, by no means, a medical profession. If you need help, please seek qualified medical attention. This newsletter, while informative and fun, is no substitute for the real thing.