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Adventures of the charmingly odd

2018 in Review: WTF

Whew.

2018 was a hazy blur of a year for me. I spent most of it sort of wallowing that I was wasting so much time being physically sick as well as dealing with the lowest bout of depression I’ve had in years. However, in the last few weeks I’ve been able to reflect on everything that has happened and realize that though I was in pain and often sad, I also had very high highs to accompany those lowest of the low moments.

The best parts of 2018, and my life in general, were the days where I got to spend it at the beach with my boyfriend Steve and our two dogs. We are very fortunate to live less than a mile from the ocean and it does wonders for the soul. 

photo by Zoe Gulliksen

But, here is a little recap for posterity’s sake. I mean, that’s what blogs and diaries are for, right?

Personal

In fall of 2017 I had found out that the nerve disorder I have, Fibromyalgia, was not caused by a fall on an escalator in 2013 as I’ve always believed- but from a neck injury caused by an abusive ex boyfriend. I had long buried all my memories of that piece of shit human, but this diagnosis caused a lot of mental stress, most of all anger, that the pain I feel on a daily basis is his fucking fault.

I also learned that this ex of mine, Pietro Filipponi, had recently raped a young woman named April. This broke my heart & infuriated me, which is why I wrote the blog post “April Told Me to Write” on January 25th, 2018. It was terrifying and liberating to finally admit all the abuse I had received from this sociopath.  

The unexpected result of that post was that nearly a dozen woman have reached out to me in the last 12 months since that post was published. They filled my inbox with stories of assault, abuse, theft, and other unimaginable damage. Young women who had met Filipponi recently on Tinder and Googled him after they began dating him. Plus men who had witnessed him stealing from bars in Lower Manhattan or attempting to assault their female friends.

As cathartic and empowering it was to form a bond, this Girl Gang of sorts with these women who had been hurt by him – it was also left me emotionally drained. It made me feel incredibly guilty that I had not said anything when I finally was able to escape him in April 2014. That because I did nothing, said nothing, all of these people were hurt. This notion (along with having an abusive, unstable, maniac of a boss) sent me into a depression that lasted from February to July.

But another blog post in the upcoming weeks will focus more on the follow up to that now notorious blog post.

In July I started seeing a therapist and had my psychiatrist change my anti depressants. I found a new job in October at a medical spa not far from my home and I fucking love it. My type A personality thrives in the organization and endless Excel sheets. I have so much self pride in helping to run a medical office.

Steve has also proved countless times that he is indeed the perfect partner for me and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better person to spend the rest of my life with. (We aren’t getting engaged/married at this point basically to just annoy everyone around us hahaha. We have a house, are secure in our relationship, and don’t want kids. What’s the big deal?)

Music

Holy crap I saw SO MUCH LIVE MUSIC THIS YEAR! Even while I was depressed, I went to a ridiculous amount of music concerts in 2018. Mostly because it took zero effort- everything was within 1 square mile of my house. As a homebody, it’s hard for me to want to do anything that involved leaving my house and being in a crowd of people.

There’s too many shows to list them all but the highlights are:

Seeing The Gaslight Anthem on their reunion tour three nights in a row down the street at the historic venue, The Stone Pony.  The first concert Steve and I ever went to together was a Gaslight show in September 2014 and it has been the band that we have bonded over the most. All 3 nights we shoved our way right up to the front of the stage and it was a mosh pit of craziness that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. 

photo by Pat Gilrane Photo (@njpatg)

I also saw the Queen tribute band, Almost Queen, three times this year! Since I can’t see Freddie Mercury live (RIP<3), this band is a remarkable second choice. I plan on seeing them again this February. As a life long Queen fan, seeing this band is much better money spent than seeing that infuriating movie that came out recently. (I could rant for hours on how inaccurate and horrible Bohemian Rhapsody was.) 

photo from AlmostQueen.com 

This was year of 3! I also saw the lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon, perform solo shows three times in 2018 (I can be obsessive, I know). The best of the 3 was the show at The Count Basie Theater that happened to fall on Steve’s birthday! It was one of the best shows of my lifetime. Fallon played stripped down version of Gaslight songs as well as songs from his solo albums.

But most of all he played an old Gaslight song “She Loves You” that I had never heard live before and never thought I would ever get the chance to because it was on a b-sides album. As soon as he played the first notes on the piano, I burst into tears like a lunatic. Plus a couple of weeks later my younger brother was able to see the same show out in California, and it meant a lot to us to be able to experience the same tour of one of our favorite musicians.

photo by Russ DeSantis for the Asbury Park Press

In September, the first annual Sear.Hear.Now music festival on the beach was held in our city, Asbury Park. Steve and I aren’t “musical festival” people so we opted to get tickets to an after party show at The Stone Pony the Saturday of the festival. This happened to be one of the greatest decisions we could have ever fucking made. Instead of paying a ton of money to stand is a packed crowd far from a stage, the headliners of the festival showed up as this tiny venue and all jammed together at midnight!

Steve nearly shit himself when Jack Johnson showed up on stage to play a few songs with The Preservation Hall jazz band. Then Brandi Carlile showed up to sing a few duets with The Tangiers Blues Band, which I also sobbed through, hahaha. Carlile’s music means so much to me and I felt honored to be able to see her perform live in such close proximity. (We’ve seen her once before, at Radio City Music Hall in NYC but that was a much different experience.) It was just an unforgettable night and will top our list of best shows we will ever see.

Brandi Carlile on stage with The Tangiers Blues Band, photo by Zoe Gulliksen
Photo: Noah K. Murray

Podcasts

In the first few weeks of 2018, New Jersey was hit with quite a few snowstorms. For the first storm, I remember layering up and realizing I was going to be shoveling snow for the next 8 hours so I needed something to keep me busy. The only podcasts I had listened to before this point was “Guys We Fucked” by Corrine Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson and “The Bailey Jay Show” with Bailey Jay and Matthew Terhune.

Thus, with a shovel in hand and the longest driveway full of snow up to my waist, I began my descent into the world of True Crime Podcasts. Like most, I started with the first season of Serial. Then S-Town. And a few others.

But then, My Favorite Murder.

Oh how I wish I could brag that I was a Murderino since Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark began their podcast in 2016, but I did devour every single episode published within weeks. I couldn’t get enough. They are still my favorite women to listen to twice a week and being a fan has truly made an impact on my life. I’m now part of several fan groups on Facebook: NJ Murderinos, Monmouth County Murderinos, etc and my personal favorite- Witcherinos (for the witches who also enjoy discussing true crime hahaha)

Once I was caught up with MFM, I tore through every series I could get my hands on: Hollywood & Crime, Dirty John, Dr. Death, Homecoming, The Teacher’s Pet, Up and Vanished, Unobscured, and more. I did listen to non-murder type of shows like The NYTimes’s Modern Love and The Jenna & Julien Podcast.

The thing is, I was so anxious and depressed that I couldn’t sit still long enough to read. My entire life I’ve been notorious for continuously having my nose in a book but in 2018 I was lucky if I got through 10 novels. Podcasts became my constant companion: I never had to be alone with my thoughts. Good or bad, it was a coping method that kept me sane. 

My mom and Steve began to get slightly worried though. Why this sudden obsession with something so horribly morbid? I eventually brought it up to my therapist, who said:

I mean, he wasn’t wrong.

Listening to stories about murder and mystery was so compelling, so fascinating, that they were able to keep my attention and distract me from my own demons. I’m going to make a conscious effort to go back to reading more in 2019. But I for sure will not give up my murder podcasts, goddamnit!

Major Events

I got to meet one of my favorite authors! Jojo Moyes who wrote “Me Before You”, came out with the third book in the series: “Still Me” in February. To kick off her book tour, the first book signing was at the Barnes and Nobles in New York City that I used to work at! It was so meaningful to meet a writer whose work has brought me comfort. Plus getting to meet her during a period this year when hardly anything made me excited. A few weeks later I finally got my bumblebee tattoo as a homage to one of her books as well as my yellow Mini Cooper (the other love of my life<3).

my bee tattoo done by Karissa Anne at Ninth Wave Tattoo, Asbury Park NJ


Something else I did in the midst of being depressed was get my nose pierced on a whim – which I actually fucking love and see myself with it for the rest of my life.

photo by Steven Shulze

But the biggest thing I did this year was RESCUE A DOG ON A WHIM.

Steve told me over and over again that a dog would not magically make me happy. But when your brain is chemically unbalanced, you’re willing to do anything to chase that sense of happiness again. Including getting a fucking dog. I mean, Carrie Fischer had her therapy french bulldog Gary. Why wouldn’t that work for me too?

Oh honey.

French Bulldog are fucking expensive and the breed is so sought after that they are never available from a rescue organization. But some backyard breeder on CraigsList in south Jersey was getting rid of his dogs because he was relocating to California. On a random Wednesday in June I told Steve I was going to come home with a dog. He said he would never tell me no, but he thought I should wait until I was feeling more myself. Psssh, reasonability was not my forte during this time.

photo by Zoe Gulliksen

So I met some random ass dude at a PetSmart parking lot, forked over $400 bucks, and came home with this sweet, crazy as fuck, cute Frenchie. Steve and I tried for weeks to find a suitable name for him, but he’s so goofy and clumsy and weird that I called him Bug and it just stuck.

And so my internet followers have been graced with this silly face ever since.

photo by Zoe Gulliksen

A dog did not fucking fix my depression, only hard work and new antidepressants did. But it certainly didn’t hurt =)

Overall, 2018 really kicked my ass. My fibromyalgia pain was the worst it had ever been, I had a migraine every other week, and I was just done. But Steve was there for every meltdown, for every day I spent curled up in bed from my whole body being in pain. He made me feel loved when I was certain that I was unlovable.

Getting professional medical help, changing jobs, and putting in the hard work on myself helped to close out 2018 on a very positive note. I’m no where near being physically better but I’m in a MUCH better mental place.

In 2019 my main goal is to take active steps towards my health. I’m in pain every day and that is no way to live a full life. So goodbye forever to 2018, a messy but adventurous year and onwards to healthier things!

photo by Zoe Gulliksen


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