The Comics Edition, July 8th!

The Comics Edition, July 8th!

I am so excited to partner with an incredible art project, My Underwear Will Save Me on tomorrow’s edition of Get Nervous! MUWSM is a project about being an ex-Mormon, featuring paintings like this:

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This edition is funded by a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council. What is most exciting is that I get to work with my wife on this project. Mel Wells is the artist behind MUWSM, and she and I have invited some other incredible local illlustrators, comics, and graphic artists to present. Here is the full lineup!

Alecia Gatlin
Barbara Holm
Jonathan Hill
Mel Wells
Alexey Moore
Lacy J. Davis and Jim Kettner

Each artist will have ten (ish) minutes to present their works. Each artist has drawings, paintings, comics, etc. This format is new to me, we have not had any visual artists present at Get Nervous up until this point. We’ve had props. Candles, pill bottles. But never visual art. This will be the third or fourth edition at Ford Food and Drink, and it is such an amazing spot. I hope you will be able to join us!

Get Nervous #9, The Comics Edition
Saturday, July 8th, 7:00pm
Ford Food and Drink, 2505 SE 11th Ave. in Portland

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A Hard Time

A Hard Time

I have been paralyzed lately by the events that are going on in our country. Like so many others, I cannot fathom how the individuals in the White House got there. I have nothing new or profound to say about it. My anxiety is unceasing. I try crowd-sourcing for coping mechanisms. I try other people’s tools. I gather breathing exercises, herbs, teas, potions, good thoughts, calm vibes, anything I can get my hands on. I don’t sleep well, I cry a lot, I wonder if any of this is worth it. I know it is, but there are moments I wonder.

Generally, with depression, things you used to enjoy you don’t enjoy anymore. For me, it has been that not only do I not enjoy things as much as I used to, I just can’t see the point. I have talked at length about my anxiety, because it is easier for me. Truth be told, I only scratch the surface of what is there, which is why it is easier. It is more palatable to say, “I’m working on it,” like actually having something you are doing to help yourself, than it is to say, “I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. I’m not really trying. I’m actually really close to giving up.” It is that thing we do as Americans where we have to be DOING something to be considered functional. I was talking to my fiancee about clothing companies, and why things are marketed to us as aspirational. As in, you will be cool and will be enough, as soon as you have this fucking insufferable, khaki-colored, butch hat (we are queer). As in, you are almost there, but this will really seal the deal. As in, yes, you’re currently a person, but just keep trying, and of course buying, and you’ll be a better kind of person. And how all I want is to show up somewhere and feel like I am good enough to buy something to begin with. Like I don’t have to wait for some stupid brand’s permission to buy its shit. I just want it, so I get it. It is the same with depression. Depression is the thing that makes me feel like I need permission to be happy. “That was a cool thing that happened, but it is not quite cool enough.” As in, not quite time to be happy yet, buddy. As in, when is it ever time to be happy? Do you just get to make that choice?

I don’t talk about how exhausting my anxiety is on stage because it makes me sound weak, and non-functional. It makes me sound like every day is a struggle and most nights I come home exhausted from trying to calm my thoughts, so I can’t update my website, or reach out to people to find readers, or be more productive than a person who is employed full time can be. I slouch on the couch and feel the anxiety sopping my limbs and weighing them down because I am not DOING something. I have had serious bouts of OCD in the past where I thought I could control things. Anymore I just get tired of the runaround those feelings give me because I can’t control shit, and I know that. It doesn’t mean that when shit gets scary I don’t still think, “Can I prevent this from happening by folding this laundry exactly the right way?” Then, at least I can trick myself into thinking I am DOING something. But it is fucking exhausting trying to figure out the right thing to do. What if there is nothing to do? Do I burst into flame?

I started seeing a new counselor this week and she actually got me excited about counseling. I don’t enjoy the first appointment with a new counselor because I have to bring up all the reasons I brought myself there to get better, to be a better kind of person, to give myself permission to try and do because I’m improving myself. I have to admit to someone that I am not cured. That I am in progress. I have done that for a very long time, thought I needed to improve before doing something. Anything. Dating, writing, traveling, swimming, talking to other people about what I do. In Portland specifically I do not feel like it is acceptable to be anything other than the improved, best version of yourself. I don’t feel like the journey to getting from who you are to who you want to be is appreciated. It feels like people just want you to be there, mostly so they can ask you for shit that will benefit them. I am actively, publicly, trying to showcase and broadcast my own journey to who I want to be because I want people to see that it is okay exit off I-84 into Portland from wherever you came from and not be a complete, successful, hip, beautiful, smart, well-connected person in the scene. You don’t have to constantly try to impress other people to be valid. You can just be a fucking person.

What I have realized lately is that I have not been entirely genuine with the person I put on stage at Get Nervous. I try to impress people with my mental health progress. I like to talk about how I am making an effort to get over the thing that made me start this series in the first place. My new counselor talked about how with anxiety, in our brains, we create these highways of thought processes that keep us on the same path. You can’t deal with how fucked up shit is? Take the well-traveled freeway to Spiral Town, where you will obsess and work yourself into a frenzy and never breathe past your sternum and try, in vain, to control the things around you that you can’t. She wants me to give myself permission to take an exit off the road to Spiral Town, into the weeds, to places I don’t usually travel, down a gravel road that is full of the shit I don’t want to deal with to teach myself ways to deal with it. Carve out that path. Because there are no quick fixes, unfortunately. You can buy the cool hat and wear the cool hat, but do you really, truly, feel cool? As in, do you really feel like you are legit, or is this a show for other people? Are you doing what I do and not telling the whole story because it is too much? “I have an appointment with a counselor this Tuesday,” I said at the last Get Nervous. See? Progress!

I do understand that Get Nervous is inherently a showcase of the progression, digression, and winding road that is dealing with anxiety and depression. I just also want to understand that if I am not always “getting better” it does not mean I am getting worse. I can be what I am in that moment, whatever it is. I think my new counselor said something about being present. Maybe I should try that.

Get Nervous #8

Get Nervous #8

Here are the readers from Get Nervous #8. This lineup was not fucking around. This marks nearly fifty people who have read at Get Nervous, and next month marks the year anniversary. I can’t thank the readers enough.

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Tim Day

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Jordy Byrd

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Josh Lubin

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Stephanie Patricio

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Ali Shaw

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Tanya Dickinson

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Mindy Nettifee

The November Edition

The November Edition

On Friday, November 4th, Get Nervous was lucky enough to be a part of Lit Crawl, kicking off the evening of over 40 readings and events for this literally madcap literary adventure. That is their thing.

There were more people at this reading than have ever been at a Get Nervous reading. I don’t know if the impending election was part of it. I don’t know if it was because it was an all-queer edition. I think it was a combination of all of those things. The unknown is scary. It is where I usually find myself festering and making a bigger deal out of everything than I need to. If you don’t know, you can theorize over all the worst-case scenarios. It took me until I was in my mid-20s to really come out. The unknown is scary. My point is, I think people needed some community.

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I did. It is funny (maybe not FUNNY funny, but funny!) to look back on the way I was feeling at a particular time and connect the dots as to why. I was so sure the election would go another way. I was so sure I assembled a bunch of queers, in public, to talk about our mental health issues. To read about them out loud to a room full of strangers. At a major literary event in one of the most literary cities in the country. I thought that seemed like a good way to deal with what I didn’t even know I needed to deal with. And it certainly fits the theme of being audacious and loud about it all instead of hiding it.

The lineup was incredible. I don’t know how I got so lucky. It was such a blur we barely got photos. So here are some links instead.

Kate Carroll de Gutes

Robyn Bateman

Nikole Potulsky

Nathan Wade Carter

Jonanna Widner

Some of these folks told me they were honored to participate. And in those moments I slough off compliments because I just can’t believe it. My anxiety and depression don’t often allow compliments. But it isn’t about me. Being honored to be a part of this is to be honored to be allowed to show up, say what we feel, publicly. It felt major at the time because I had finally assembled a group of people that were so much like me. Not just mental-health wise, because all of the participants so far have held some significance in that way. But queers. We have stories of hiding ourselves in so many ways. Not just our fears. Not just our sexuality. Not just our gender expression. But all of it, at the same time. This is true for so many, and I don’t mean to discount that. But in that moment, it felt major. Afterward, looking back now, when I’ve finally had time to process the last month, and the ways we move forward, it feels even more major.

At the start of the event, I said:

“Welcome to Lit Crawl 2016! I am Ashley and this is the All Queer Lit Crawl Edition of Get Nervous! Get Nervous is a reading and performance series about anxiety and depression, things I have struggled with my entire life. Mental health is a complicated, messy, beautiful thing, but there is a lot of stigma around it and a bit of misinterpretation of it. You can’t really call in anxious and overwhelmed to work, for example. For the people that don’t have them, anxiety and depression are intangible, which makes them hard to understand. But 40 million American adults struggle with anxiety disorders and 15 million struggle with major depressive disorders, which accounts for a total of over a quarter of American adults who live with them every day. Anxiety and depression can be isolating, scary, and mean. They can convince a person they are nothing, and in this all alone. Sometimes I walk around with what feels like a steel box around my head, where my worries fester and bounce around my brain. No one can get in, and my worries certainly can’t get out. I would talk to my friends—maybe two or three in particular who I felt GOT IT—one of which is reading tonight—and they felt the same way I did. They had isolating thoughts. They had worries that ping-ponged in their own steel box. People I’d known for years and never felt like I could talk to about my anxiety because of my anxiety. Once we started talking and commiserating it felt better. But one day when I had some clarity, and maybe one of the sides of the steel box was open, I thought that instead of keeping all of this to myself—clearly other people had these things come up, too—why not get up on a stage somewhere and talk about them publicly? It is the opposite of what my anxiety and depression want. But it’s working pretty well so far. Dozens of folks have read at Get Nervous in the last six months and there is this link we have. This connection of being brave and audacious enough to admit, publicly, that we have some shit. But who doesn’t?”

I considered retiring this series after this event because I was feeling very raw after November 8th. I still am. I wasn’t seeing the value in this. I was getting too self-involved with it. But it isn’t about me. It has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with the people that show up, speak up, and most importantly, don’t shut up on a daily basis. We are out here talking about our shit now. It does not fade away when the microphones are turned off. It does not stop meaning something when we are not on stage. It means more. Because Get Nervous has only ever existed as a catalyst to create conversations around anxiety and depression that can affect the every day. Now is not the time to cut the sound and scatter back to our corners. I cannot be quiet about this any more. I think it might get even more intense. Giddy up.

Get Nervous is looking for a new home. We need a new space to do these events. So if you know of a spot, email me here. I am aiming for January for the next show.

Thank you from the bottom of my curmudgeonly, scared, anxious, bleeding heart for being there that night. And being here still. I am honored. Thank you.

The last two editions

The last two editions

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the delay between posts. This summer has gotten away from me and here we are knocking on September and the fifth (!) edition of Get Nervous is around the corner and I am just getting to sharing the wonderful photos of the wonderful folks who read at the last two editions. July was really fun because I featured the first stand-up comedian from the amazing Lez Stand Up, Mel Heywood. And the Oregon Book Award-winning, funny, and just damn authentic Kate Carroll de Gutes. We heard some works in Spanish. We heard some poems about Montana. We heard from more than one person that family isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

I am approached at each show by folks who say they are happy Get Nervous exists. That they heard about it from a friend who thought they would benefit from attending. That they want to write something for an upcoming show. That they have anxiety, too. That they have been depressed. Have panic attacks. Relate. I always want folks to relate. That is literally the goal here. Well, the first goal is to get folks to write about their “thing”. Then from there, I figure it just gets out into the universe and does what it needs to do. Thanks to all of these folks and all of you for sharing in this, too.

Get Nervous #3- July

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David Rutiezer

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Pax Mandable

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Blanca Stacey Villalobos

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Brenda Taulbee

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Jaime Dunkle

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Kate Carroll de Gutes

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Mel Heywood

Get Nervous #4- August

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Dominque Rossi

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John Barrios

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Kelly Wilson

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Tracey Knapp

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Jenna Zine

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Celeste Gurevich

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Cari Luna

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Ben Tanzer

The next Get Nervous is September 18th at 7:00pm at The Jack London Bar.

 

 

 

Get Nervous #2

Get Nervous #2

The second installment of Get Nervous took place on June 12 at The Jack London Bar. It was an amazing night full of stories of courage, more physical manifestations of anxiety like your skin peeling off your body, anxiety after having a baby, and more! The readers were:

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Rachel Hirsch

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Kelsey Wallace

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Stacia Secreriat

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Kjerstin Johnson

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Mel Wells

Thanks, gals, you’re great.

Get Nervous #3

Get Nervous #3

Get Nervous #3 will take place on July 17th at 7pm at The Jack London Bar.

Your readers this month are:

Stacey Villalobos
Brenda Taulbee
David Rutiezer
Kate Carroll de Gutes
Mel Heywood

Jaime Dunkel

And more to come!