In the past year, I’ve been pretty open with my struggles with mild depression and significant anxiety. My battle with depression started about five years ago but had gotten terrible right before I attended my first Turner Classic Film Festival in 2016.
My breakdown was reasonably public. I haven’t spoken about this to anyone, so I am putting it all out there right now, and I am horrified to put it in ‘print.’ I wrote a column in town for the local newspaper. I had an award-winning column that I feel resonated with people because I was brutally honest. I put it all out there all the time. I told stories of my life, the good and the bad. Things at the paper went from bad to really bad, and I took everything personally. When someone complained about the paper or the owners of the paper (of whom I loved), I took a hit and with each hit my mental state got worse and worse. My column suffered as well. I went from writing about all the fun and happy things I was doing to how the world was shit and the people in it were shit. I was crumbling right in front of everyone's eyes. The only person who reached out to me was my former editor and mentor. He told me that I was at the beginning of a pretty big battle and would need some help. He knew the signs. He passed away soon after he reached out to me. This didn’t help things on my end. I discontinued my column and sunk in deeper.
My anxiety issues have been a problem for a lot longer. I have fought this battle for about 11 years now. I had always been outgoing, loud and up for anything. Then I seemed to hit a wall, and it all just stopped. I started to get scared of everyday things like driving or leaving the house. The absolute worst thing about my anxiety was how I was finding it harder to start conversations with anyone, and I was unable to get myself out into the world. Each day was a battle that I wasn’t willing to fight.
Factor in my long-time fight with crippling migraines and it’s a triple problem.
I’ve had a problem with migraines since I was about 13 years old. Now that I'm older I know the signs of these crippling headaches coming, my vision gets blurry, I get a little nauseated, and my right eye starts to droop before it fully swells shut. There were days that I wouldn't get out of bed. I would guess that in the past five years I’ve spent nearly every other weekend and at least three nights a week in bed.
So why am I telling you all of this and how does it pertain to the TCMFF?
This year I attended my fourth TCMFF. The first festival I attended in 2016 was so incredible. I had a fantastic time and loved every moment of it, but I clung to the very few people I knew and didn't try to talk to anyone else. The few people who did try to speak to me, I very coyly slinked away from. I worked myself up so much about chatting with people that I made myself sick by the final day. On Sunday morning I spend the entire morning in the bathroom.
The second festival was a little better. I did open myself up to speaking to one new person, and she has actually become one of my closest friends in the world. During a Tippi Hedren event at Larry Edmunds Bookshop, I tried to engage in a conversation with her. It was so difficult, and I was uncomfortable every second, but I managed to make it through and build a meaningful and vital, life-changing friendship in the process.
Over the next year, Lauren really helped me by pushing me to work on this blog and talk to people. Every time I had an excuse not to write, go somewhere or speak to someone, she called me out and pushed me to do better, try harder and get out there. She believed in me and told me so. On the other end my sister really pushed me to work on separate pieces of my life to help with my depression (I chose to not get on medication for this at this time. That choice is not right for everyone, but it was for me at this time. Please speak to a doctor about what your best option is) and with the help of these two wonderfully strong women I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wasn't out of the woods, but I was able to get out of bed and engage in an online conversation. It was a step in the right direction.
I also made a significant decision to drop big bills on getting tests done and getting a prescription for something to help with the migraines. It has many side effects and its a lot to deal with but in the end its what’s best for me to function long term.
I also decided that before the third TCMFF I would delete my former Twitter account that was full of political rants and I would start over. I would try to focus on the fun stuff, aka film, food, and television. I started to let more of my personality come through in my tweets and stop hiding and worrying about what people thought of me. Guys, I love a good fart joke, the scatological is right up my alley, Inappropriate stuff is my jam, and I love when the SimmaDown Police is on a roll. Any #ThirstTraps posts, send them my way. This was all stuff I was so self-conscious about and tried to let out in dribs and drabs. When I started to let people see the real me, I began to find a genuinely exceptional group of friends that brought me out of my shell and out of the darkness. They made me feel like myself and never like I was awkward or unwanted. I could cuss and act like a complete idiot, and they didn’t throw trash at me and tell me to getaway. They welcomed me and laughed along. They got me. When I said that Chester Morris could ‘GET IT’ they agreed or countered with yeah well so could Norma Shearer. #GodBless
By the 2019 Turner Classic Film Festival, I had developed a new sense of confidence that I hadn't had in at least FIVE YEARS. I was looking forward to being around people and doing everything. I had been attending functions and eased myself into being around people, and it was nice, but this was going to be the real deal for me. I had been chatting with these people for a year, most more, and I was excited to spend time with them. I was nervous and like any person with anxiety will tell you, it's difficult to just 'get over,' and I am trying to do so without medication. (That route is NOT for everyone, its just what I chose to do for now. I am doing so based on the fact I don't have insurance/I have a job that's already tough based on my migraine medication side effects and I don't want to depend on medication for something else for a long time.)
I went into the festival with the motto: ‘say yes to everything!’
I wanted to experience everything I could this year. It ended up being the best TCMFF I have ever attended. I made so many new friends and had the most memorable experiences. Before the festival even started our friend Roger from California asked us to dinner at LaScala and drinks at Pump and TomTom, YES. We ended up seeing people from the show (Vanderpump Rules, a guilty pleasure I love, I am garbage) and having the best time with a great friend!
I was nervous about sitting in line with Diana, Julia, and Erin. I didn’t know them very well and to be honest, I almost flaked because I was so nervous. I had the most wonderful and memorable day of my life with them. We laughed so hard, we were giddy, we talked, and we shared something that was just so much fun. I made three great friends whom I adore. I would have missed out of three of the most amazing people if I had backed out of that.
We went to dinner with Jackie, Guy, and Jessica. I already knew and loved Jessica, but I was able to get to know Jackie and Guy better, and we laughed and had so much fun. It was the best Mel’s experience I have ever had, and I have been there several times. We just had a total blast. After that, we had drinks in the Roosevelt Lobby, and while it was borderline insanity, it was so much fun. Bring in Brandon, Erin, and Diana, and it is the perfect TCMFF experience. In-N-Out with Brandon and Jessica; Poolside drinks with Erin; Yours, Mine and Ours with Jessica, Brandon and Stacy; A Bert Convy photoshoot in the Egyptian Courtyard with Jill, Angie, and Jessica in front of so-many-people. These were all the best.
This year I also stepped way, way, way out of my comfort zone and brought along Flat RaquellTCMFF. Our pal Raquel couldn’t make it to the festival, so I brought a photo of her along to snap with everyone at the festival and share with her, so she knew she was missed. This ended up being a helpful tool for me too. People who knew Raquel would come up to me and introduce themselves and talk about her. I also found myself walking up to people like Alicia Malone to get a photo of her with Raquel, though Jessica did most of the talking, I still went along fo the ride. I pushed myself to places I usually wouldn’t because I had this thing to ‘hide behind,’ if that makes sense. It ended up being helpful, and I talked to so many people because of it. I had so much fun that FlatRaquelTCMFF will require an entirely separate post.
From Bordners to 25 Degrees to the floor of the multiplex to the elevators outside the multiplex to Pump to the Roosevelt Lobby to the Legion, I made so many wonderful memories this year. It was my year of yes, and It carried me home with so much confidence and self-worth.
I always say that TCM changed my life and I feel that every year I learn something from my TCMFF experience. This year was so monumental and a significant turning point for me personally. I needed this in so many ways. I really feel that so many of my TCM pals really held my hand this year and without saying anything they guided me down this path of self-discovery. I think I knew from the moment Jax sat down next to me on the day we arrived in the lobby of the Roosevelt that I would be just fine. We were laughing after a few minutes, and that’s all it took for me to know.
I went into this TCMFF scared that I would have a major panic attack and not be able to go through with anything. I was scared I would have to hide in the room or avoid people, but I didn’t need to. Everyone made me feel so at home that I want to cry at how much I miss them all right now. I know the best people, To say that TCM has the best fans and staff would be an understatement. Everyone made me feel so welcome, they always have. We are all there for this one common thing-our love of classic film, everything else just falls into place. Some of us love food or a certain kind of beer. Some of us are parents or some of us have anxiety and a hard time talking to people in person. Most TCM fans who attend the festival are welcoming and will come right up and give you a smile, a hug, and a button. Don’t shy away from them, smile back, give them a hug and talk to them. They may be game-changers or better yet they may be life changers. So many of them have been for me. I love them/you all so much. I can’t even find the right words to describe how much these TCM people mean to me. Full-on game-changers these old movie weirdos. God love em.
I am so damn blessed to be a part of this community. You all have helped me in so many ways. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to see you all in 2020, if not sooner. Cheers.