Category Archives: mental health

NEW YORK, HERE I COME!

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So, as I mentioned last time, I had an interview in New York last Monday for a television company. Not even joking, on Friday, just FOUR DAYS after the interview, I received a phone call.

Ladies and gentlemen, it appears the Dark Horse has had a victory. I will be going to New York in January!!!!! WOOOOOHOOOO!!!!!

And this got me thinking about my journey here in grad school. When I first arrived at Harvard, I had nothing. I didn’t know a single person in Boston. I had no internships or connections to professors.

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I picked up a job at Whole Foods to pay for rent (and luckily I have federal grants for tuition). I had no real skills that I knew of, although I knew I was smart, and I knew that I knew how to survive. But nobody had every cared about me, or had ever given me a chance in life. Mostly, I just felt alone and stupid.

Essentially, I had no real skills to speak of that would make an employer outside of the food industry think I’m worth investing in. I had always taken the first job I could find somewhere, completely terrified of the idea of being unemployed and homeless. This means I’ve lived an entire life slogging through whatever restaurant or retail chain would give me a job. And thus was the cycle. Restaurants lead to restaurants. Retail leads to retail. My brain slowly rotting away with boredom in the process.

I always knew I wanted more. I was never one of those people who could work their 9-5, bored out of their fucking minds, and then justify their horrible life by going to bars and drinking it all away every Friday and Saturday….just to then have to repeat the cycle the next Monday.

 

But, growing up in Ohio during recession made me afraid.

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I watched as adults with college degrees applied to work in the diner I worked in. I thought it was so strange and scary that I, a high school student, was working the same position as someone with a college degree.

I watched my mom lose her job due to a merger, then lose her next job due to a merger, then the next due to the company going bankrupt. By the time America had finally climbed out of the hole, she had been through 5 jobs.

 

But the whole time…I knew something was wrong.

Everyone kept telling me to be thankful for what I had. They kept telling me to get my head out of the clouds. They kept telling me about the dangers of big cities (which actually, is hilarious, because my hometown has a worse crime rate than cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Fransisco). But, when you’re 16, and everyone around you keeps telling you that being a waiter is better than being homeless, it’s hard not to let it get to you.

 

And so, I worked and worked, and the depression, the misery, and the boredom grew until it was intolerable and I lost my mind.

Flash-forward to being in grad school. I knew I needed to make a change in my life. I knew I had what it took to achieve my goals. I knew that if I could just have some way to prove myself, I could show the world that I was a force to be reckoned with.

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And what better place to do it right?

And so, the job at Whole Foods turned into a job on campus, giving me more flexibility to get involved in school,

which led to me joining clubs,

And then I picked up an internship with a nonprofit where I created Facebook posts to help inspire students,

Which then led to another internship managing social media for a literary magazine,

which led to editing for that literary magazine,

which led to me getting an internship at a second literary magazine,

which led to me getting an internship with a podcast,

and then my internship with the literary magazine started paying (woohoo!),

and then I created and hosted a huge event at school,

and there was that paid job I had in Shanghai over the summer that I never would have gotten without all the other experience from being back in school,

and now, the real fuckin’ deal. Working for a big TV channel in New York City.

Is this the fabled American Dream ? 

Have I just made something of myself ? 

 

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Am I about to be a writer living in New York City? Just a small-town boy tryin to make it in the big city?

(Also, (Groans) Im sorry for using yet another Sex and the City GIF… God, Im such trash…)

 

 

Anyways, I’m excited for my future.

I’m excited and I think my writing talents have grown. I believe in my writing now. I believe that I can get published.

I also believe that my life can be filled with adventure.

and most importantly, meaning and happiness. 

 

Are there people out there who are happy living in Ohio or Iowa or Indiana? YES.

AND GOOD FOR THEM! THEY CAN DO WHATEVER THE FUCK THEY WANT.

But just like they’re allowed to work at H&R Block in some city like Dayton, you’re also allowed to go big, and want to work a big city, doing whatever the hell you want. Never let the people from where you’re from try and tell you you’re not allowed to dream big. Because changes in this world only happen when people dream big.

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~ The Dark Horse

(#NotProofRead. Proofreading is for your grandma! Live on the dangerous side!)

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The Highs and the Lows: Riding The Emotional Wave

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So, I just got back last night from New York City. I was there for an interview.

Yes. Someone actually thought I was good enough to be interviewed in New York City. (I can’t believe it either, trust me)

So, anyways, it goes like this. I was here alone for Thanksgiving break. The entire city clears out because Boston is one of those places where people move to, not someplace where they’re from. So the city is empty. It’s 10 degrees F, everything is closed. And I’m alone.

I feel like shit.

Until….

I get an email. 

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This email is to inform me that I have an interview, for a very large company. A media company. A media company whose offices are in a very trendy building with other very trendy companies in a very trendy part of town.

So, my dread turns to intense anxiety and joy, and I head to NYC as fast as I can…

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So,  wind up in a hotel, next to Bryant Park,

during the holiday season

in New York City.

It was like a movie.

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I ate sweets as I watched ice skaters while Christmas jazz played, with the Empire State Building in the background.

I got donuts, I went to New York delis, I got amazing Chinese food. I walked fifth Ave. and Central Park.

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It was like life had gone from zero to hero. Finally, I had a real tangible piece of evidence to prove that I was making something of myself. An interview. (This was actually my second interview…the first was via phone). So, it was like a MEGA self-esteem boost to see that someone thought I was good enough. And not just someone, but a fuckin huge awesome company.

 

So then the day came. The interview. OMG people it was amazing. The office was amazing. And it was located in an awesome building. As someone who had grown up working retail and restaurants, and being told constantly that I’ll never get anywhere… THIS WAS FUCKING HUGE!!!!!

I hope the interview went well. I would love the job. I would love to live in New York. I would love to have a chance to show the world my skills. To show the world that I do mean something.

So, I walked out of my interview, and got myself a tea at a trendy little cafe.

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(I couldn’t write a post about NYC and not reference Sex and the City….cmon people!)

 

 

But now, Im back in Boston. The interview is over. The whirlwind is over. And It’s like someone has slammed on the brakes again.

And I have this feeling in my throat. Like a weight, pulling me down. A weight saying YOU KNOW YOU’RE MEANT FOR THAT LIFE. YOU KNOW YOU’RE MEANT TO TAKE ON THE WORLD. YOU DON’T LIKE YOUR LIFE BEING SLOW BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT A SLOW PERSON! YOU WANT TO LIVE IN THE FAST LANE AND THAT’S OK! YOU SHOULD! 

I’ve spent too long listening to people. Too long listening to anyone and everyone who’s willing to spend their time putting me down. Telling me I can’t. Telling me I have no talent. Telling me I’m worth nothing.

But GOD FUCKING DAMN I CAN’T ANYMORE.

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Every time I get these little tastes of a life I like, the voice in my head gets louder and louder. It keeps telling me this is where I belong.

It keeps telling me that I AM ALLOWED TO DREAM. That I am allowed to fight for a good life.

I’m allowed to have friends

I’m allowed to fall in love

I’m allowed to have a career I love

If I feel like I want a high profile job then listen up MOTHERFUCKERS… I CAN!

AND WE ALL CAN. FUCK ANYONE WHO TRIES TO KEEP YOU DOWN.

I read a great quote the other day that said something like, “The only people who try to put you down are those who are already beneath you.”

So boys and girls, let’s find out nicest clothes, polish up our self-esteem, brew a little confidence and rock out our best Carrie Bradshaw

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PS – Ive never actually watched Sex and the City…is it even good?

 

~ The Dark Horse 

 

Another PS- I also never proofread. Oh well.

 

Dispatches From My Agoraphobic Tower

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So, I recently stumbled across my old photos from when I was living in Melbourne, Australia.  I haven’t looked at these in years, and just seeing them flooded my mind with memories.

During my time in Melbourne, my unchecked depression and anxiety quickly developed in panic disorder, which quickly developed into agoraphobia. I was alone in a foreign country, locked away in my little apartment cube, afraid to interact with the world around me.

 

Honestly, it’s so strange. Because All me memories of Melbourne are so awful. The thought of Melbourne fills me with nothing but loneliness, dread, pain, and misery.

But then, I saw this picture:

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I took this from the roof my apartment complex. How could such a beautiful view ever have been scarred into my brain as bad? How have I always thought of Melbourne as the ugliest most miserable city I’ve ever seen?

Was Melbourne really that bad?  or was it me?

Was I the one that was ugly and miserable? 

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Look at that! How many urban areas have are quality that good?

I think this is a perfect example of how your mental health really effects everything. I mean, depression and anxiety isn’t just about being sad. It’s about feeling such a cold, dark, sad misery, that somehow, a sight as beautiful as this, was skewed into what I perceived at that time to be hell.

And that’s why we need better mental health support. Not just in America, but all around the world. I don’t ever want anyone to feel how horrible I did in Melbourne. I used to hide in my shower and cry until I could hardly breathe. I was fired from my job because I kept collapsing from panic attacks, and was blowing all my money on therapy, and take-out food because I couldn’t even walk to the grocery store.

To this day, my parents think I blew all my money in Australia partying. They have never fully forgiven me for how “sloppy” I was there. And I paid the price for it. After my time in Australia, I returned home to Ohio and picked up a job in retail. My parents thought that me having to return to Ohio with my tail between my legs, forced to work in retail for a year while I re-figured out my life, was good punishment for my immaturity and selfishness of going broke abroad.

They still have no idea that all my money was being blown on therapy and food. They also don’t know that while back in Ohio, I got back into therapy. The University in my hometown offers free-to-the-public therapy were grad students studying psychology act as your therapist.

My mom thinks that I was out running around town, when in reality I was in exposure therapy.  I know a day will come when I will need to tell my parents the truth. That in reality, I wasn’t as strong as they I thought I was. While they thought I was out having the time of my life, I was actually in the lowest stages of my life thus far.

 

But there’s also hope.

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I didn’t due in Australia. And I didn’t when  I came home and got into therapy.  In fact, I got stronger. I got better. And it inspired me to start writing. We may think that those tough moments are the end. We may think that there’s no going on, but there is. 

THERE IS ALWAYS A TOMORROW.

THERE IS ALWAYS A CHANCE TO HEAL AND BE BETTER .

And here’s how: 

Alright people, listen up. Step number 1: Call Lifeline. I don’t care if you’re not suicidal, if you’re at a point in your life when just living through the day seems impossible, call them. I literally used to call Lifeline everyday back when I was agoraphobic. They are so understanding and not scary at all! never hesitate to call and just say, look, I’m really struggling to just be alive right now. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, panic, PTSD, bullying, or any of the others. If you’re that miserable, YOU DESERVE TO HAVE AN EAR TO SPEAK INTO. AND NEVER FORGET THAT.

This is a list of lifelines around the world:

I have called at least 4 of them, and can tell you, these services are amazing

List of Lifelines

Step number 2: Find inspiration! There are some great sites out there that helped me get through horrific times.

Beyond Blue. An Australian website that is fantastic!

Beyond Blue

 

THIS WAY UP! Online therapy for the busy person. I’ve used them, they’re great!

This Way Up

 

ADAA. Resources for Depression and Anxiety

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And most importantly, NEVR EVER GIVE UP! if you ever think you can’t go on. Call Lifeline, reach out to a friend, or even write a comment on this blog. I’ll totally respond and tell you you’re a kick-ass motherfucker.

I’ll leave you with this sunset from the roof of my building in Melbourne, which, I somehow didn’t recognize as beautiful back then, but do now. 

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~ The Dark Horse

(was the proofread? ugh… I can’t be inspirational, and proofread!)

Anyone Else Going To Be Alone On Thanksgiving?

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Ah yes, it’s that time of year again! The leaves are almost gone, the first hints of Christmas pepper the atmosphere with a hint of glee, the rouge cranberries can be seen in even the most forgotten of grocery store aisles. This can mean only one thing, It’s almost Thanksgiving!

And, thanks to a country with INSANE flight prices (Dear America, do you know how cheap it is to fly in Europe?) I’ll be stuck in Boston for Thanksgiving… yay. 😦

However, I’m trying to make the best of this. Obviously, when you’re a depressed person, being alone over the holidays is horrible. In fact suicide rates actually INCREASE during the holidays. So, in order to not be sad, I’m compiling a list of:

 

Why I’m grateful to not be going home this Thanksgiving: 

 

1.) My mother can’t cook anyways. Look, my mother is a saint, salt of the Earth that one…. but as a cook? … Well, I mean, let’s just say this. Thanksgiving for us always consisted of overly-dry turkey. Green beans from a can, jello-d cranberry sauce from a can, gravy from a dry-packet mix, corn from a can, bread from the store, pumpkin pie from the store, and “mashed potatoes” if you can call them that. It was basically potatoes boiled down so much that they had lost all structural integrity. It was like picking up a spoonful of flavorless foam. This Thanksgiving, perhaps I can make myself good food now?

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2.) I’m in Boston. Surely the Black Friday shopping here will be much better than it would have been in Ohio.  I mean, Walmart and Best Buy? Oh, please, let the trailer trash have their fun. I’m going to go stalk the sales at Gucci and Canada Goose. Get some real deals from real stores. PS- I literally don’t have the money to shop anyways, and I’m sure Gucci doesn’t do Black Friday deals anyways… but at least I can window shop for deals at the fanciest of places I can’t afford right? Perhaps I’ll buy a pair of socks.

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3.) Can you imagine what the airports will look like anyways? Do I really want to be crammed in a flight full TOC people? (TOC is Thanksgiving Or Christmas, they’re the people who only fly once a year at most, either for T or C. And Therefore they’re completely lost in the process; move slow, breathe through their mouths, trip, bump into walls, fart constantly, and so forth…) Then the plane will be filled with screaming babies, and people with their Panda Express smelling up the whole plane.

No thanks!

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4.) I’m literally going home for Christmas in a little over a month anyways. Sure, this will be a super lonely week, but you know what, I’m going to get to experience all the fun and joy of hectic holiday travel in one month. I CAN DO THIS! ONE MONTH.

just say it.

ONE MONTH

ONE MONTH

ONE MONTH!

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5.) Thanksgiving is deadly anyways! Have you ever heard of a movie called Thankskilling?

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Why, Thanksgiving is downright dangerous! I should be thankful I’m not able to go home and experience the atrocities that await.

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Now that’s what I call Murder Most Foul  (Rimshot please!)

 

~ The Dark Horse

Tolerance, and how much do I have to tolerate?

A general view of the Auschwitz fences during the 73rd

So, yesterday in class we read about the holocaust. Obviously, a horrible subject. Macabre, horrific, inhumane. It’s one of the worst atrocities that has ever happened.

Discussion began, and your typical scenario unfolds… The Jewish people in the class are deeply hurt and cry while reading passages (which, they have a right to). And then a woman with german heritage (which, don’t most white people in America have German heritage?) she says something like, “My ancestors could have been the ones who did this”, and then she cries. And i’m like…. OK… you can cry… but, now it’s starting to get a bit showboaty.

And then came the moment that angered the fuck out of me,

We have a Muslim guy in our class. Who he is and what he does and where his money comes from are all very “sketch” if you don’t mind me saying so. He travels every weekend. Sometimes he misses class because he’s traveling. He claims it’s for “work”. Paid humanitarian work he says… which if anyone out there is like me and has tried to apply for paid humanitarian jobs, you know how scarce they are. Especially the well-paying ones that even pay for your travels around the globe.

And on top of this, he’s already said some really sketchy shit in class. The other week he was complaining about a professor and administrator at the University of Oklahoma who was pressured to resign after he wrote a book that said a bunch of fun things like:

~homosexuality is insanity, and a gross perversion.

~ Women shouldn’t wear pants, and if they do, its because they’re sluts, and “I don’t let the women in my household wear pants”, or anything besides long skirts.

~ Women shouldn’t vote

~ Black and Gender studies are a joke

~ Africans are silly little things….

This muslim guy in class is like, “Americans say they’re so open-minded, but then someone shares their opinions and suddenly he’s demonized for it? It’s so wrong!”

So far, my emotions towards what he says have ranged from:

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to:

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But yesterday was a whole new game being played. Once it was time for a class discussion, he was like, “You know genocide still happens to this day?”

Which, it does. Rwanda. The Congo Free State. Both examples of modern-day genocide.

But instead of the obvious, he goes, “Have any of you heard of what’s happening in East Turkistan in China?”

The class just stared at him blankly.

“You haven’t heard about this?!?” He yelled,  acting shocked.

***I had actually heard of this. If any of you have read my blog, you’ll know I was working in China this previous summer, and have visited Asia before***

It’s very controversial, but China is detaining members of a muslim group in Western China. The reason is because parts of this muslim minority belong to a violent terrorist group known as the Turkistan Islamic Party, which is allied with Al-Qaeda amongst others, and has performed deadly terrorist attacks in China, most notable the 2013 bombings, and the murder of a group of Chinese authorities.

As the kid in class spoke of the “genocide” against these people, his eyes teared up, he choked up, and he was like, “I was just there this weekend, trying to help the efforts.”

 

And I sat there, REALLY BITING MY TONGUE and wondering if this guy in class actually belonged to a terrorist group. Was I sitting 3 people away from a terrorist? 

He continued about the pain and suffering. And then, even went as far to say, “And it isn’t just in East Turkistan, I mean, even the Jewish people have performed genocide on the Palestinians!”

And at this point, I just went:

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Ok, let me say this. Is China the most trustworthy country on Earth?

ABSOLUTELY NOT.

If China gets its hands on people it fear may be in a terrorist group, I am 100% sure sketchy inhumane things will happen. Hands down. I’m not arguing with that. And ethically and morally, we would need a trial with evidence and find out how bad things are. I am not denying that.

But, to be comparing the capture terrorists and assumed terrorists (and sadly, even innocent people that China just deems to be a potential threat within that group) with the planned termination the Jewish people that was based on nothing besides blind hatred is wrong and insane. And it really makes me afraid of what this guy is like. 

And furthermore, to compare the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the holocaust, while Jewish people are in the room crying…. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? 

DO YOU HAVE NO FUCKING SHAME? 

And I’m sure the situation with this guy is probably similar to Republicans who read those far alt-right websites. He probably only reads extremely biased and hateful news. He probably reads story after story about the trials of the muslim people. He probably sees very little news of the real world. And therefore, in his mind, the entire world is probably skewed into a “They’re ALL against me and my people” mentality, which therefore gives him the blind confidence to march into a room with Jewish people, and tell them they’re basically Nazis.

It’s sad.

And I wanted to yell and scream and lose my shit so badly.

But, I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to start a fight. And I wouldn’t even know how to properly fight that sort of attitude. So I kept quiet.

And now, I’m thinking of all the things I SHOULD HAVE SAID but didn’t.

I wonder what will happen next week?

~ The Dark Horse

The Best Memoirs About Overcoming a Crappy Life

THE BEST MEMOIRS

(And no, Mommie Dearest isn’t on the list. That’s the kind of book my mom would read.)

So, as I’ve stated numerous times before. I love write because it helps me talk about my life. I’d love to publish stories about what I’ve been through, and not surprisingly, I love a good memoir that does just that.

My criteria for a great memoir about overcoming a crappy life are as follows:

1.) It needs to be an interesting story. I’m sorry to all you 50-year-old women out there who want to write about your divorce…nobody cares.

2.) There needs to be humor and honesty. The second I start reading something that reeks of desperate and trying too hard for the drama, I’m done.

3.) It needs to be a story. I hate those memoirs that just turn into a rant about the philosophy of love and life and whatnot. I came to read your story, not your ill-formed journal entries.

**Special note** There will be no spoilers here!  I hate when “reviews” basically go in and tell you the entire damn plot-line of the story. 

Alright, here we go!

 

WILD by Cheryl Strayed

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An incredible story for sure. After her mother dies when she’s in college, Strayed falls into a deep spiral of self-destruction. The story takes place as Strayed hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, while weaving in flashbacks about her life that are heartbreaking and eye-opening. But her bad past only makes you root for her journey on the trail even more!

 

I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS

by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

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Josh is living in NYC working in an ad agency. However, he leads a (sort of, but not really) secret double-life as an alcoholic drag queen Aquadisiac. However, one night, Josh gets not1caught up with a crack-addicted hustler and his life spirals out of control. Please note – I actually think that Josh is a complete piece of crap human. And there’s a few things that happen in the book where I’m like… I think you literally could have gone to jail for that… But it’s a very gripping book.

Plus, he lives on a farm now raising goats or something, so I guess he’s not anywhere where ha can cause more havoc. Also, I’m pretty sure they still see their goat-milk soap and stuff. You can buy Beekman products for your home and tell all your guests, “You know, this was made by a man who used to do drag and potentially killed a man!”  

 

 

WISHFUL DRINKING by Carrie Fisher

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Hilarious and jaw-dropping. It’s amazing to see the world that Carrie Fisher came from. It’s obviously fun because she’s a celebrity, so you know who she is, and you recognize all the names she mentions because they’re all famous too. It’s kind of like the best high school gossip you’ll ever get. But what really sets this apart from the other Hollywood gossip fluff reads, is how real and honest Carrie is. She doesn’t just talk about the funny stuff. She takes responsibility for her actions. She shows her scars. She shows you both sides of her life, and that makes it a fantastic read!

The highlight? When she creates the “Hollywood Incest” family tree she comes from. It’s truly laugh out loud.

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RUNNING WITH SCISSORS

by Augusten Burroughs

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This poor kid… Oh man. A young Augusten is sent to live with his mom’s therapist.  Because that’s totally normal, right? And the therapist is just as crazy as his mom is. Watching Augusten navigate such an unconventional life surrounded by people who deserve to be institutionalized is mind-blowing. But he writes about it all with such a welcoming, open, and hilarious viewpoint, that you find yourself laughing, when in reality, we probably should be contacting Child Services.

What’s even cooler is that the entire family wrote books! His brother ended up writing a bestselling memoir about their fucked up family titled Look Me In The Eye that was wildly popular. And then, not to be outdone, their crazy mother tried her hand in the memoir game and wrote The Long Journey Home, where she desperately tries to defend how she treated her children.

 

 

PARTY MONSTER by James St. James

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Another book on our list where the author should probably actually be in jail right now.

Party Monster tells the story of club-promoter Michael Alig’s rise to fame in the New York club scene. Luckily, James was Michael’s best friend, giving us a firsthand look through it all. From his arrival in New York, to his rise to power, his spiral into the world of drugs, and ultimately, the grizzly murder of his drug dealer that later would send him to jail.

One thing that makes Party Monster so amazing is that, because they were all famous by the end, there’s documentation everywhere about the events. Articles in the Village Voice. Videos of them appearing on The Joan Rivers Show, and other books about them such as ‘Clubland’. But what really makes Party Monster so amazing is that its fucking hilarious. You will never in your life laugh as hard while reading about a murder, I guarantee it! 

 

 

Special Mention: David Sedaris

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Not quite on the list… but Sedaris writes some great stuff about his life. However, some of his writing can be a little boring. And I’m pretty sure everyone on Earth has already read him anyways.

If you haven’t read him yet, what you need to do is buy Holidays On Ice, and read Santaland Diaries.

 

Get Reading!

~ The Dark Horse