How Pearl Jam Saved Me From My Own Generation (X)


A couple of weeks ago I bought concert tickets to a show and it made some things in my life come full circle. I’ve seen a lot of live music shows. It’s something Bob and I enjoyed separately before we got married and have always done together since we started dating, in fact, our first date was to LIVE. Many, many have followed.

Every year we start very early in the season watching for shows to come to KC and within driving or riding distance. This year I heard that Pearl Jam was touring and that they would be hitting up Chicago. Not only is Chicago one of my very favorite cities, it’s a short, cheap plane ride and the concert will be at Wrigley field. No way would Bob not want to see this show. I was right. We sat together at Ground House Coffee in Gardner and over crepes and lattes we got online and luckily got tickets to the, what would be, sold out show.

I am generation X. Every generation before mine had some historically defining event. We had none. We are children born from the largest generation in American history, the Baby Boomers (born from the WWII era). They had war, protests, experimental drugs and sex, political unrest, and societal change. We had…frozen yogurt?

A lot of sub-cultural place markers of today got their start by generation Xers. Emo is one that started in the 90s, and made being depressed cool, which in turn brought awareness to those suffering in silence. The stigma, though still very much alive, is becoming less and less. People were starting to realize what was happening to this generation and some, including us, knew it wasn’t good. We had songs like “Jeremy” which gave the story behind that quiet but unpredictable kid in class. We knew how bullying and someone’s home life could cause them to blow the fuck up. The song was based on what, as you now, is the first, of many school shootings.  We felt the pressure cooker everyday. We knew the storm was on the horizon.

Portlandia was a way of life, not a TV show. The hipster trend grew it’s roots while I was in high school. Going against the “mainstream” was invented during my adolescence. We had an entire genre of music named after the movement- alternative rock. Whatever our parents did or were doing we rejected.  We were angry. We lashed out and didn’t give a fuck about what other people thought of us. We were scrambling to find what defined Us. Stuck in the middle between the Baby Boomers and what we now call ,The Millennials. We were being squeezed out of history and believe me, we knew it- could feel it.

We had a lot to live up to but we were labeled the generation of nothing, of X. We were looking for something worth fighting for.  Some of us felt we didn’t have anything to give, we served no purpose and that was reflected in the music of the time. We were sad, and lonely. We had nothing to cling to, nothing to bring us together. We were guilt stricken, sobbing with our heads on the floor. The music was our solace. It was where we connected.

This is how it was in the 90s in the sub-culture known as “Grunge” or sometimes just referred to as “alternative”. I have good memories, it wasn’t all terrible. I mean my Doc Martens held up and my flannel was warm, my hair did get washed (sometimes) and I do remember eating a meal or two. We’ve grown up and those that made it (our generation has a very high suicide rate) feel a sense of comaraderie knowing what we all went through together. We still hold inside of us these ideas of rebellion, unrest, and independence but we live our lives, go to our 9-5s and we are a bit more of a part of society than we ever thought we would be.

A flash of my youth came up and bit me that morning in the coffee shop as we ordered those tickets. Pearl Jam defined life for me in the 90s. Nobody could give words, voice, and sound to the way I felt better than Eddie Vedder. I would listen and feel as though my soul was understood. This band saved me from certain self destruction. When my friends and I listened to them play, WE felt heard. From all of that bullshit of nothingness that I grew up in and with, I have it good, not everyone was so lucky from the 90s.


A Letter to My 18-Year-Old-Self

letter to my 18 year old self

First of all, I want you to know that the impact you have on others will change the world, as you know it. You are powerful beyond your comprehension. You have the opportunity and ability to set yourself on a path to success; at any given time you’re doing better than you think you are.

It’s okay to let some people into your life and reject those that don’t benefit you. The cool thing is you know who’s who right now. Don’t worry about being alone; you’ll never be lonely. Seriously, only allow people into your life that are worthy of all you have to offer. The relationships you have that are healthy you’ll want to nurture them and keep them close, don’t let them slip away.

As you go through life you’ll meet people that don’t agree with how you’re living or what your future plans are. Just remember, only you know you and I’m telling you, as you, to stay the course. You’ll move through it and you’ll appreciate and respect yourself so much more knowing you stayed true to you. You have no reason to doubt yourself.

Though you have felt what it’s like to fall in love, to be loved, and to be hurt and rejected you’ve not yet met the person that will put all the pieces together for you. He’s coming soon and when it happens you’ll know right away. Trust yourself and trust him. He’ll come in on a white horse and swoop you up and you’ll fall for him hard and fast but it’s good, so go with it. He’ll hang the stars for you. You’ll resent the time you spend apart. Though it may seem crazy now you’ll still feel this way about him 22 years from now.

But for now, spend your time having fun and living life in a way that you’ll have no regrets later about not taking every opportunity that comes your way. Do it all now, whatever it is, go for it.

Try not to worry so much about things, go with the flow more. And as far as people go, most people aren’t’ paying attention to you anyway, they are too busy worrying about their own shit. You have the ability to read people, you have amazing intuition and that makes some people uncomfortable around you. You don’t know yet how to hone in on this skill and use it to your advantage but it will serve you well later on. Go with your gut, she’s never wrong.

Consider eating a bit healthier. Love your body and the amazing things it is capable of doing. Take care of it and nurture it. Continue to exercise. Have more sex- but on your terms. Take it from yourself- figure it out now, the sooner the better. Know that you are just as deserving of good sex and orgasm as the person you’re with. It’s not just about him, whoever him happens to be. Your satisfaction and happiness is up to you, you are in control and in charge of it.

It’s okay to speak up and speak out. You’ll figure out that people are looking for leadership and you have those skills. Work on the empathy piece to that leadership. Don’t be so afraid of rejection that you keep you ideas and opinions to yourself. Others can learn from your unique perspective. Being young does not invalidate your experience.

You’re going to go through a couple of rough years here real soon. Everything works out in the end. Stay true to you, stay smart and use your wisdom. Love yourself and everything will be all right.

I Am Heidi and I Am Bipolar (this time I made it)


The other day I was out to dinner with some colleagues of mine. We were talking about nothing really. One of them asked me how I was doing. I knew exactly what she was asking. Her concern was very authentic but for a mili-second in my mind I paused. Could I tell her how I really was? Could I trust these women that I was munching casually on chips and salsa with the heaviness of my truth?

As with most things in my life I took a “I-won’t-know-until-I-do-it” attitude and decided to just put it out there. I’m pretty good at diverting attention and changing the subject if the conversation got too uncomfortable for any of us. So I told her I was doing much better, but that the summer had been a rough one.

Thinking this would suffice and we’d move on talking about better things than my mental health like making money, who said the dumbest thing on Facebook this week or even sex but no, she wanted to know more. She asked, “What happened?” Again, I know her concern was genuine. The past summer as far as anyone could see I had pulled back on work and relationships and pretty much went into hiding so I know that her asking me that question was valid. I had decided long ago that I would not be embarrassed or held back by my mental health diagnosis. My mission in this area to bring awareness so that other people, especially women, can feel comfortable being who they are and not resent this one part of themselves.

It’s been almost 19 years since I was first given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder II. I’ve had ups and downs over the years. I’ve been in and out of therapy, on and off meds and through numerous changes in the cocktails of medications over the years. I know the prognosis of my condition. I know that most people with bipolar disorder must be medicated their entire lives just to live a seemingly normal life (and sometimes that isn’t even possible). I also know that bipolar depression is a contributing factor in many suicides. I know these things; I live them daily.

For most of these past 19 years I’ve been stable with minor mood fluctuations. Most people would have no idea that I carried a mental illness diagnosis. I’ve held jobs, advanced in my career, raised children, sustained relationships and paid bills. Nothing on the outside would have hinted towards what I was fighting (and winning) everyday.

But this summer a shift happened. I remember feeling physical symptoms of the manic mood, but I didn’t put it together. When you’re living it, it just feels like it’s a part of who I am. It’s not like some kind of monster separate from myself. It’s not something that has “taken over” When I had headaches and my heart raced I never even thought about how those symptoms could be a manifestation of the bipolar.

I often joke that when you go crazy it’s not like a switch gets flipped. You don’t hear it. It’s not an alarm and there are no red flags being waved. No one is there at the threshold between normal and out of you fucking mind saying, “you have now crossed over.” It’s slow and progressive. I didn’t realize I was manic until much later and only once I leveled out.

Have I gone mad-

What I did feel was when the bottom fell out. I did know that I was spiraling down a deep dark abyss of which I’d never be able to get out of on my own. I didn’t hear the sudden swish of the rug being pulled out from under me as my feet flipped up over my head. I didn’t feel as I tried to grasp onto anything that would hold me up. I gasped for air; I begged to keep my head up. I fell and I never landed, I just kept falling.

I became frightened of where my thoughts would lead me and what they might make me do. I didn’t want to die. The thought of it made me shudder. I couldn’t imagine leaving my family alone to deal with the hurt that would cause. I however, didn’t trust that in an irrational haze my unpredictable chemically imbalanced mind wouldn’t take over and convince me to kill myself. You don’t know when your having crazy thoughts, that’s what makes them crazy.

During a more lucid time I told my husband and doctor what was happening and about my fears. She decided to put me on what she called “home hospitalization”. Someone was to be with me 24/7 in case the irrationality took over. I was not supposed to work or have any stress in my life. Then my grandma died.

I couldn’t talk to anyone except my husband. Literally, I didn’t answer the phone or make any calls. I stayed in bed and only felt safe when Bob was home. I didn’t eat and barely slept. I had completely lost who I was. Like when you’re in an airplane in the fog. You have no concept of where you are in space. That’s how I felt. With gray space all around me and no way to know if I was right side up or upside down. I had to trust Bob to tell me if I was okay or not.

Meanwhile my doctor changed my meds and slowly but surely they started working. The fog got thinner and thinner, I started to see my way out. Eventually, it thinned out to the point where it was a few clouds here and there. And that’s about where I am now.

So that’s what happened. It’s not the first or the worst and it won’t be the last. After I told my story one of the other women said, “You’re such a bad ass. You’re just so authentic and open about your bipolar. And you keep going, you don’t let it hold you back.” I appreciated her words but this is me. I’m not special. I fall down and get back up; it’s all I know. I take one day at a time, and on this day I choose to live. I am Heidi and I am bipolar.