I’ve been such a reckless fuck-up that the state might put me in jail.
That’s pretty fucking crazy when I pause to really think about it.
My heart’s stopped a few times. I’ve been arrested, committed, and hospitalized more times than I can even remember now.
Why am I still alive?
I’ve taken everything for granted. I’ve wasted everything. And yet here I am.
I don’t know how my story ends but I have a really hard time envisioning any kind of future. I’m staying clean but I’m not sure what for.
I’m still working on my “Suicide Stitches” series. Tonight I’ve been sewing up “Shitty Children.” If you look close at my blurry iPhone photo, you can see that the biggest tear goes across the entire painting. It’s definitely coming together though. And this one was especially bad. In addition to the rips, the frame that the canvas is stretched over was snapped in three places. Earlier today this painting was nothing more than a crumpled pile. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made on it so far.
Did you see I’ve got a webstore up on my agency’s website now? I don’t even know if it’s live and processing payments yet but check it out.
I went to the VD clinic yesterday ‘cause I thought there was something wrong with me. I suspected that I might have been a bit hypochondriacal but – sure enough – there was something wrong. To quote the doctor’s precise and horrifying diagnosis, I was suffering from “a minor skin irritation.”
So that’s good news but it doesn’t end there. While I was sitting in the waiting room, I got to watch an educational video in which a cartoon penis rolled a condom over his body and then proceeded to lube himself up. I swear to god, I’m not fucking with you. This exists. Giant cartoon condom – rolls a condom over his body – and then covers himself with lube.
I made this painting over a year ago, in a state of sheer terror, while waiting for test results. Being back at a clinic yesterday, I remembered that I had never put it online.
Early in 2014, I sold some art to a girl named Rachel Rabinowitz in Delray Beach, FL. She emailed me later and told me that she was an artist too and that I should hit her up if I was ever in Asheville. Later that year, while in Asheville, Chris Spillane and I met her for coffee. She asked if I’d be interested in collaborating and I told her that she could paint something and then I could paint something over it. (That’s the only way I know how to collaborate; I had done it twice before with my buddy, William Somma, on “Limp” and “Yo – I Painted a Fuckin’ Unicorn“). Here’s what the canvas looked like when she gave it to me:
I’ve neglected my blog for so long that it’s hard to know where to start. While anyone who follows me on Facebook is pretty up to date with the gruesome details of what’s going on in my life, here’s the gist of it for anyone who’s not up to speed:
I moved in with a girl in Chicago in July. We broke up in August.
A day and a half later, I started seeing another girl in Chicago. That lasted three months, until Thursday, when I finally left.
I love the girl but the relationship was incredibly dysfunctional and it had me more fucked up, twisted around, confused, depressed, anxious, and suicidal than I’ve been since December 2012.
While I’ve neglected writing the statements for my artwork, I’ve still been actively creating new pieces. The lack of updates can be accounted for by (1) not having had the new pieces photographed yet, (2) not having their statements written, and (3) the fact that these new pieces are HUGE and the last two have each taken more than a month to complete.
My charges are still pending and still stressing me out but I’m still (sort of) optimistic that some kind of a resolution can be reached – or at least resigned to accept the punishment that’s being offered as part of the plea deal that’s currently on the table.
As the weather got colder in Chicago, I saw a dramatic decrease in my print sales when I’d go downtown to set up, paint, and sell. Consequently, my income this last month is lower than it’s been since January, which is stressing me out but not killing me.
I desperately needed to get out of Chicago to escape my shitty relationship, so I’m in St. Louis now. On November 22nd, I’ll go to Minneapolis for the Rivethead reunion. On November 24th, I’ll return to Normal/Bloomington, IL for my next court date. From there, I’m not sure what I’ll do but if I have to accept the plea deal, I’ll be put on two years probation and will need to choose a state to serve it out in, since my movement will be restricted and I’ll have to be physically present for monthly check-ups. My art career would warrant that I choose either New York or California but I would probably have to choose Florida for the sake of my mental health, as that’s where I’ve got the most emotional support. In theory, I would be able to apply for travel permits to leave the state for my “job” (for example, to go to Minneapolis for my exhibition in March).
When I left Chicago on Thursday, I left without Chris Spillane. It was six months ago that I petitioned the court to have him picked up by police and put into detox and six months since I picked him up from detox and brought him out on the road with me. He now has six months clean, a job, a place to live, and everything else that could be reasonably expected of relatively well-balanced kid of our ilk. When I return to Illinois for my court date at the end of the month, he’ll have the option to rejoin me but I suspect that he’s gonna keep on in Chicago, building up his new life.
In September, I started seeing a psychiatrist in Chicago. In October, she put me back on antipsychotic and antidepressant medications (in addition to the Adderall that I’ve been on for ten years). The last time I was on antidepressants was as an inpatient at Tranquil Shores in February 2013. The last time I was on antipsychotics was (I think) as an inpatient at the Wellness Resource Center in February 2012, though I almost went back on them in January 2013.
Anxiety and depression destroyed my appetite the last month or so and I’m skinnier than I’ve been in at least twelve years. That’s good because I have body dysmorphic disorder and being this thin makes me feel good about myself. It’s bad ’cause… I don’t know… ’cause people say it’s bad…?
I have no idea how this all comes across as a whole but here’s what I think should be the important point to take away from it all: October was a bad month but – here, in St. Louis – I am safe, and cared for, and feeling eight million times better. I am no longer suicidally depressed and though I am afraid of what will happen once I leave St. Louis in two weeks, I am okay and I am once again grateful.
I’m going to spend the day with my current work-in-progress, possibly do some layout work for a new flier or work on written statements for finished pieces, and – tonight – I’m going to go downtown to see Rational Anthem play with The Copyrights and The Murderburgers.
If you wanna buy some art right now, that’d be pretty great.
“Adventures Per Minute” is how I felt in early April. From the moment I woke up until I crawled into bed each night, I was busy. Traveling back and forth between Jacksonville, Delray, and Sarasota; givinginterviews and being photographed; attending the premiere of the movie I starred in; directing a music video; setting up exhibits; making and distributing fliers and meeting people; selling prints at One Spark and Spring Fest; fucking; designing albumcovers and merchandise for some of my favorite bands; making more money than I’ve ever made in my life; and (of course) painting – at parks, at friends’ houses, on the streets, at punk shows, on rooftops, and at galleries.
It was just outside one of those galleries that I started this painting. Passers-by would stop, compliment my work, and ask how I was doing. That sparked the first small caption: “HOW AM I? I’m standing on a stool, paintin’ funny faces outside the gallery that sells my paintings for all the moneys. So – yeah – I’m okay.”
At the other end of the canvas, I elaborated: “I have everything.” And I really do. I’m not super rich just yet but all of my needs are met and then some.
I went back to Sarasota with the intention of trading in my van for a bigger one; it was my last stop before I finally took my show on the road outside of Florida. I changed my mind about the van but had quite a time back in that city where I (sort of) grew up. Things were messy – not only with friends in Sarasota but in my “adoptive” family’s house up the road in Bradenton. Drugs, lying, screaming, stealing… it was all around me and it was starting to fuck with my head. I don’t often feel “triggered” and – for the most part – think it’s sort of a bullshit concept. One afternoon in particular became an exception. I was on the back porch painting when the weather started acting up but there was no way I was walking back into the house. I took to the top corner of my canvas and started journaling:
It's been ten days [since I last wrote on this painting]. I'm on the porch in Bradenton. There's a tornado warning. I don't care. That'd be cooler if I actually thought it might hit. I would totally shoot up right now if I had drugs in front of me. BUT I HAVE THE MONEY THESE DAYS.
My best friend (the one that used to shoot heroin) - he started shooting heroin again. And smoking [and shooting] crack. I had him Marchman Acted soon as I got back to Sarasota. Everyone's pretty happy about that - and I've been buying into it too. But let's get real. Nothing has changed. This is just getting started. And it's gonna get a lot worse. I kind of think he's gonna die soon. What should I do? Drag him around the country with me? That's a lot of responsibility. And what would he do all day everyday?
And I love Abby too but her situation is even tougher, more hopeless.
I was talking to Heather about some of this and she asked me if I'll "ever get to live for myself." But I'm more independent, disconnected, and uninvolved than anyone. I do "me" constantly. But I grew up a fuck-up with other fuck-ups and what little I'm able to do these days when this shit goes on - I need to. Sometimes I'm the only one that can. I can't live without people anyway. It's all part of the package.
It's all worth it, I think. Even when it hurts a lot. And makes me wanna put a needle back in my arm. I don't think I will but, for the second time since I stopped, I really want to. This shit is dangerous.
And I haven't even gotten into the other shit that's eating me right now… My phone is ringing. What kinds of decisions am I gonna make today?
I feel safer in this house with drugs, screaming, CPS, threats, lies, theft, etc. than at Morgan's ('cause she's got roommates) and this [house] is the only place I don't feel like an intruder.
I paused and thought about all the good things that had happened lately – and the specifics of some of the bad… I brought the pen back to the canvas.
Life is sad and tragic and funny and beautiful. I'm usually having a pretty good time. I laugh and smile a lot. I don't want the people I care about to die. Or to live without knowing happiness.
Up to this point, I hadn’t given any thought to what I was writing or how it might be received. I just let it come out, even when it occurred to me that I might need or want to remove Abby’s name at some point. But after I finished that long journal down the left side of the canvas, I remembered that I was creating art and that I had intended for this to be a joyful painting – a celebration of the wonderful, exciting things happening in my life. “I need to balance out all this dark with some the light I experienced leading up to this.” But (in my soul, not my brain) I really only felt compelled to write the darker (more recent) stories. I decided to phrase everything in the present tense.
I am standing in an alley while my friend smokes the last of her crack before I take her to the police station, from which she'll be transported to detox, under court order. I picked her up in an empty parking lot.
I am dropping my "sister" off (with everything she owns) at a drug dealer's house. An hour ago, she attempted to transfer custody of her daughter to me. I still live in / operate primarily out of A VAN. We hugged and I told her to not be a fuck-up.
I am back on Adderall [after a month without] and I think the dose is too high now and I'm too in my head and having thoughts like these: [An arrow points at the long, sad, I-wanna-shoot-heroin, my-friends-are-dying journal].
I needed my positive adventures to balance the painting and convey what “adventures per minute” had meant to me initially. But I had already told those nice stories on my blog. Repeating them here felt contrived. I did it anyway but in just four short sentences – covering One Spark, the music video, the film festival, and painting on rooftops. A few days later though, I had another adventure. But one that I didn’t want to be the first thing to pop out at someone. I hid it against a dark blue backdrop. It says: “I just PRETEND (consensually) ‘raped’ a girl that identifies as ‘gay.’ It was pretty awesome. I like her.”
So THAT sort of raises some questions and probably warrants a whole exposition of its own but this statement’s already long enough, I’m writing this in Atlanta, and – you know – I got some more adventures I really ought to be getting up to right about now so…
I drove past a bridge this morning that was so beautiful that I caught myself actually exclaim, “holy shit,” out loud. If I needed any evidence that I’m not the miserable, cynical little shithead of years past, I think that might be it.
Here’s a painting and a “story.”
My first large, expressive painting after I decided to leave my girlfriend, break my lease, buy a van, and devote myself entirely – not only to the creation of art – but to traveling the country, chasing after whatever opportunity may come along and getting serious about building a real life and career as a professional artist.
I’m happy with this painting as “art,” less so insomuch as it’s a personal artifact. The whole thing was fueled by a sense of inadequacy and complimented by anxiety and fear as I wrapped up the loose ends in my personal life and prepared to embark on the new course I had charted for myself. A lot of my art is chaotic and busy but – in this case – I was adding to it and making changes everyday (for more than two weeks!) because I just didn’t feel like it was enough.
There’s a good deal of small print spread around this piece, addressing a veritable shit ton of emotionally-bananas nonsense. Regarding the large caption (“Sometimes I’ll see a plume of my own cigarette smoke in my peripheral and mistake it for an approaching human; so – NO – I wouldn’t say that I’m all that lonely”):
“I don’t think I’ve felt lonely since I started this. I wrote that shit in my phone a month ago and pulled it out [just now] to show the world how god damn clever I am. It was real when I thought it though but that was before I even broke up with my girlfriend.”
Between starting and finishing this painting, I met a girl that I maybe kinda sorta like a little bit. The story of our first two nights together is thoroughly documented in my EPIC POEM, “The Long Con.” On that second night though, when I FOLLOWED HER SIGNAL and made my move (only to be shot down!) I was pretty confused. At the same time, it was a relief to know that I could just hang out with her and not worry about whether I was saying or doing the right things to eventuate our sleeping together that night. After all, did I really even like her? Maybe I just wanted to feel validated by getting her to like me…
“It’s sort of a relief, it’s nothing that matters, it’s just insecurity, it doesn’t add up to shit. The day I understand anything at all… whatever. BUT HOW COME I LOOK OVER AND SHE’S SMILING AT ME LIKE THAT? WHAT DOES SHE KNOW THAT I DON’T?”
For the most part, I was able to sort of laugh off what, in that moment, I perceived as rejection. (It helped that a friend had told me she was only interested in girls). Even still, I don’t get all that bold that often. I usually find a way to guarantee that there’s a green light before I put my fragile little ego on the line like I did. The aftershock of the incident had me feeling a little shaky. This was the eve of a much bolder risk; this was the night before I started the next phase of my life. My next scribble said, “I’m leaving tomorrow and scared and on edge and cry and shoot drugs.” While I didn’t actually cry and I definitely didn’t shoot any drugs, that’s the kind of self-pity/doubt that I was slipping in and out of. (Girls are DANGEROUS for me).
I was still struggling to find happiness in my painting. I was trying too hard. When I finally went back to basics and scratched out SOME FUNNY FACES, I had an epiphany: “I am reinvigorated by funny faces. Sometimes I try to expand and grow as an artist. FUCK THAT! Write what you know (my own mental instability); paint what you know (funny faces).” I started to feel better immediately. Not that that stopped me from finding new and exciting ways to fuck up or otherwise complicate my life! Within a day or so, I had cause to add…
“I’m in the middle of a 61-day crystal/herb spiritual healing. I was told that my [ultimate] spiritual goal should be “to be an excellent father” even though I said I didn’t think I wanna have kids [‘cause I’m too self-absorbed / preoccupied to ever be a decent father]. Long story short, cumming on her face tonight seemed too IMPERSONAL so – between the two things – I decided to make her the first girl I’ve ever intentionally cum inside of. She wasn’t mad but I’m OUT OF MY MIND. (Her too).”
So now I was mixed up and sleeping with four girls but only excited about one of them and – in moments – questioning even the authenticity of my feelings for her. BECAUSE I DON’T UNDERSTAND MY OWN BRAIN SOMETIMES. And I definitely have trouble trusting my feelings. AND I’M EMOTIONALLY FICKLE! As I concluded with my in-painting journal:
“I keep trying to get girls to fall in love with me AND IT KEEPS WORKING. And then I sort of lose interest and feel like an asshole. It’s not like I’m fully planning it that way but it keeps happening and I should probably know better by now. MAYBE I FINALLY DO??”
I stopped and seriously considered it. “Am I done? Do I finally get it? Am I ready to stop fucking around and validating myself by (as I love to put it) tricking girls into thinking I’m worthwhile?”
On the drive back to Jacksonville tonight, I wrote in my journal. At one point in the process, I felt like I’d had a major breakthrough. Now – just a couple hours later – I’m not so sure. In either case, I think it’s worth sharing. And (above all) what matters is that I was feeling tremendous anxiety when I started and (at least a semblance of) peace when I was done.
Journal: Christmas 2013
The last time I made a playlist was July. The music I like gives most people anxiety but it’s an extremely rare occasion when it has that effect on me. But I’m feeling way too fragile right now to risk hearing anything that I’m not totally prepared for. I need really to be comforted right now and I’m counting on this music to do it.
We just hit the part of the highway with no lights. I’m writing in total darkness now.
Heather’s so sweet. I know she never intends to do me any harm. That’s why it’s hard to leave her. I don’t know if I understand love so – sadly – it has to be a practical consideration.
I know I can’t ever be alone. I fall in “love” way too fast. So if I’m gonna be with someone, it should (probably?)be her…
She’s not great at making me feel loved, which is something I desperately need. But maybe that sort of thing goes both ways. Maybe a girl that was better at making me feel loved would also be great at hurting me if/when she wanted to. Fuck. I can be (or am) such a fragile fucking baby.
I met this girl in November. She took in the whole story behind Autobiography and pointed at the girl in it. “That’s your mom,” she said.
I didn’t like that. I’m pretty sure my disgust registered on my face before I could even think to mask it. With a smile, I responded: “I reject that. I don’t agree at all.” I had just met this girl. What the fuck?
“That’s fine,” she said. “You can reject it. But it’s still true.”
When I shot down her interpretation, I meant what I said. But – of course – she’s fucking right. As much as it’s killed me to realize that and as much as I hate to admit it.
When my mom used to constantly badger me about how much I hated her, I’d tell her I loved her and ask her to stop. I really didn’t hate her. But I kind of do now.
It’s one thing to have an intellectual understanding that your parents did their best – and to use that to “forgive” them. It’s another thing to really make sense of everything emotionally, connect all the dots, and really get a grip on it. ‘Cause when you realize now that I’ve realized that it’s not about the individual incidents of especially fucked up shit that she did, it’s about the life-threatening defects ingrained into my every fiber that she cut in and fucking cultivated for years… It’s about the fact that every time I feel rejected by Heather in the slightest, I wanna run away from home all over again.
I told Heather again yesterday that she hadn’t done anything wrong – we’re just not a good match because she doesn’t have the kind of affectionate personality that I need to feel loved. She responded that she loves me 500% and didn’t I know that? I told her that I had that information in my brain but that I don’t often feel it. Shit – how could I?
No one’s ever gonna be able to do anything that’ll make me feel loved all the time. Just as my art (which is really just the maintenance of my (relative) sanity) is a full-time job, another person couldn’t possibly give me what I need unless that was their full-time job too. Or – more accurately – were on call 24/7. ‘Cause a lot of the time I need to be left alone to “work” (paint, write, or do various backend business-of-art or website kinds of tasks). But the second I need love, if [insert the name of any girl I’ve ever been with here] can’t deliver exactly to my specifications in that instant… well, then IT’S NOT WORKING AND WE’RE JUST NOT RIGHT FOR EACH OTHER.
So – contrary to my understanding up ’til this moment– this is on me more than it’s on Heather and it’s not some incurable defect that she needs to be solely responsible for maintaining an awareness of and behaving accordingly (because she “signed up for it” by getting involved with someone who’s so openly an emotional basketcase). I need to step back in these moments and remind myself of these things of which I need to be reminded. Still, if she’s my partner, she does need to be “in it” with me and make a little more of an effort to actually express that love she says she has for me. She can be pretty cold. And in some of those moments, there’s not gonna be anything I can do to not feel unattractive, unloved, and unwanted. Worthless, and undeserving of love. This new understanding of myself won’t always be enough. Sometimes feelings are more important than facts.
This is a real breakthrough for me. Right now, in this moment. It’s not the only one from the last 48 hours though.
Driving to Manatee from Jacksonville, we had another of our four hour drives without speaking. Not in as hostile a way, but things were tense so I kept busy as she drove and, when I took the wheel, she slept. Then, when we got to the Owens, I went in alone without a goodbye. (We both just looked at each other, waiting for the other to initiate it, as I collected my things from the backseat). Then she went to her parents’. I did my thing with the Owens and with my friends in Sarasota and we didn’t see each other for two days. We didn’t spend the holiday (which means nothing to me but something to her) together. The few texts we exchanged were not especially productive.
I opened up to some friends yesterday and acknowledged that a lot of the problem – what I felt – was sexual rejection. I’ll decide in an instant, at anytime, that I want to fool around, make some gesture toward that, she’ll shoot me down for whatever reason, and I’ll feel like shit. In her defense, I know where and when she will/would be in the right frame of mind for that and I rarely act on it because it’s when I’ll usually be busy working. Our schedules are wildly different and I need to work on compromising mine more, seeing as hers is handed down from a company and mind can be whatever the fuck I want it to be. It sucks but I feel constantly burdened with a need to be productive and I’m rarely willing to set aside and stop working because I’m terrified that I won’t be able to get back on course fast enough once I’m free to pick back up.
“It’s harder to be yourself than it is to be anybody else.” My problems are so petty, small, and (really) within the bounds of my control. Still, they’re monumental monster motherfuckers and THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES WITH WHICH ANY HUMAN BEING HAS EVER BEEN FACED. I say that jokingly but it’s equally true and false. It’s real and it’s a struggle that won’t ever end. It’ll only morph and evolve. As I do…
I got away from myself and the other “breakthrough” to which I alluded. I was talking to some friends about this stuff yesterday and the response I got went from “you gotta end it (for your own sake)” to “you gotta end it (for her sake).” At one point in the conversation, the feedback I was getting, the direction that the conversation had taken, and the things coming out of my own mouth had me feeling like the most sociopathic, seriously damaged, selfish mental case on the planet. I felt like a calculating monster with an impressively evil skill-set, who was so distinct from normal people that he didn’t even have the slightest idea or awareness of what he was doing or the full implications of his decisions and behavior. I felt sicker than I’ve ever felt – like I could be some murderer, smiling at the cameras.
I probably could be. I just remembered – I had been thinking about conscience just earlier in the day. Some friend of Clifford’s murdered his girlfriend and then turned himself in. What a sap, I thought, when Mclane told me about it. What a weak human being.
I considered it further: I would never do that. You buckle down and live with the secret. No good comes from that confession; just move forward, asshole.
Well – not really. He needed to be caught; I mean, he’s clearly dangerous. But if Ikilled someone, Ishould just move forward… Learn from my mistake and accept that the consequence for my actions is having another fascinating story that I can’t ever share with the world.
WHAT’S WORSE THAN THAT?
So… that’s what I wrote as we made our way back to Jacksonville tonight. I probably started around 9pm and put the pen down a little after 10…
I looked in my other notebook at the pieces I have left to add to the website and – given everything I wrote about tonight – one of them jumped off the page and struck me as being a perfect fit.
(Relatively) early in my stay at Tranquil Shores, we got an assignment, in art therapy group – to make a figure of our “inner-child.” Like most of my inner-child stuff, I focused on myself at age four.
This thing isn’t totally devoid of substantive meaning but – obviously – this wasn’t an especially probing assignment. It was mostly fun though and I felt pretty pleased with myself when I finished it.
When I typed up my journal entry, I linked to a few entries which struck me as relevant.
Autobiography: watercolor cartoon (regarding codependency, rejection, and self-esteem)
After I journaled, I felt well enough to skip around and listen to songs that would have made me nervous earlier in the night. One of them was “Debt” by Pipsqueak, the acoustic band which was initially just the kid that sang in Snuggle (and – more recently – Murmurs) but now has a second member, playing cello and also singing. It was great before and it’s great now.
It was an assignment in the group session on the morning of my coin out [the ceremony to recognize successful completion of an inpatient treatment plan]. (It’s worth noting though that completion of my treatment plan didn’t mean the end of my inpatient stay; it had already been decided that I’d stay on, with a new treatment plan). “Using your non-dominant hand, draw a picture of the body part with the most sensation right now,” we were told. “Then ask it about the feeling and let it answer.”
My face was tense. My whole head was. I asked why.
‘Cause I’m scared of everything. I don’t wanna coin out and I upset Heather last night and assumed the worst so I could cancel everything but it didn’t work ’cause she’s not mentally ill, she’s smart and sweet, supportive, thoughtful, and wonderful. But I need to ask her to be more direct ’cause that “goodnight” could have really fucked with me. You did good not just letting it go, Sam.
Presented without further comment ’cause I’m a mess right now.