Editors Don’t Cry in the Office — I Still Can’t Believe I Did Last Night

I don't give a damn about my feelings. You know who does? Jane.
Publish date:
January 22, 2016
IHTM, panic attacks, embarassing moments, Work Life Balance

Jane sent me home last night. I was supposed to go to a beauty event (sorry, Dan). The car was downstairs. The driver called on the tail end of a two and a half hour staff meeting and when the phone rang, I burst into tears. Like a toddler.

We talk a lot in meetings about the spaces we occupy as writers at xoJane. Sometimes, Jane and I talk about the fact that I don't occupy a space yet. I'm here and there. I'm ether amber. Jane calls it an "air of mystery."

I'm not mysterious. I'm closed off. As I write this, I think that's actually too easy. I'm not closed off. I'm hyper conscious at all times of the "optics perspective." I'm a meticulous, ambitious, young editor until I completely inevitably lose my shit. Last night, I lost my shit. I sobbed. I couldn’t breathe.

I did all those things in an open office at Time Inc. and I'm pretty sure the VP of the Style Network saw my nose run down my face.

While Jane called the driver to let him know I was bitching out (though of course she didn't say it like) I whispered between dry heaves that I wasn't being weak, I was just having a panic attack and it wasn't a big deal and I was sorry. She told me to breathe in and out and apologized for maybe being too hard on me and I couldn't say just then that she hadn't been hard on me, that this would have probably happened anyway in the privacy of my own home, and that that day was no different than any other day except from an "optics perspective."

I don't write about my mental illness. I take my medication and regularly scowl at my psychiatrist because I'm doing fine and don't need anyone to be proud of my commitment to my course of treatment. I don't like to talk about the pills in my backpack because, quite frankly, I have enough of a chip on my shoulder without adding the weight of "she's riddled with mental illness, she's very unwell, but look how she's thriving."

I staunchly refuse to "go there." I don't want to write about sexual assault, incest recovery, self-harm, suicide attempts, hospitalizations, eating disorders, and so on and so forth. It's so, so ugly. I don't want to be ugly. I want to be beautiful. I want to be surrounded by beautiful things.

God, even that sounds trite and shitty and sad.

I don't want to be that shitty sad girl. I've worked so hard to be exceptional. I work so hard to be worthy.

Smooth surface. Hospital corners.

But it's hard. Everything is hard — talking to coworkers, going to events, being a person — maybe doubly hard because everything has to be checked and double checked before it happens — every gesture, every email, every word. My batteries drain fast. They flickered out last night and people — people I respect and admire —saw that who I actually am is someone who cries and can't catch her breath and has no energy left to "enjoy herself" at a beauty event because she doesn’t enjoy anything that happens in public.

I am too busy self-checking, maintaining, and presenting the ambitious woman I wish I was and know I am not.

And now I'm writing about it. On the Internet.

Now comes the spin, right? The silver lining. In sonnets, it’s called the volta — the place where the tone in the poem shifts and a new light is shed on the subject. But the light here is exactly the same.

I wish I could say that I had an epiphany. I wish that my public meltdown resulted in me smiling, bravely, like that girl in Evil Dead who saws off her hand with an electric knife and, through the blood, assures everyone that it’s alright, “I had to do it. I feel much better now.” But I don’t feel better. I didn’t have a breakthrough.

Maybe something broke out. Maybe things are a little different. This mess of a thing that I’m going to stop writing in about two minutes certainly feels different. I guess we’ll see.

When Jane tells me to open up, I resist. Who would take fashion advice from someone who went to one show last NY Fashion Week and spent the rest of the time crying in a bathroom, trying to breathe? Who would drop $200 on a cashmere sweater recommended by someone who, last night, ruined the sleeves of a cashmere sweater with blood from chewing through her cuticles? That isn’t beautiful. That’s sad and shitty. But it’s honest. It’s transparent. It’s me.

I don’t care about my feelings or my blood sugar or my mental illness, but Jane does. Jane wants me to write. So I’m writing and I’m feeling and, quite frankly, it’s embarrassing and it sucks, but I’m doing it for her because she told me to breathe in and breathe out and she called the car and told me I could go home. I’m writing this way for her. If it sticks, maybe I’ll keep at it for myself. We’ll see.