My Accutane Meltdown
T/W - Suicide, self-harm.
I wrote this story about eight years ago, in the height of the doorman blog. You can't find that anywhere, because I'm mostly embarrassed by how I behaved and saw the world. While I gained a bit of cult-hero status in the hospitality industry, it was the absolute worst version of me and I can't bring myself to read most of the things I wrote.
Anywho, I'm committed to writing at least one thing per week on here. I admittedly could not think of a new thing to get bent out of shape about, so instead of creating problems for the sake of creating problems (like when I was a doorman), I dug up this old story that aligns with this here blog. I went back and did a massive polish, because aside from being a complete douchebag back in the day, I also couldn't structure a fucking adult sentence and apparently didn't know the difference between past and present tense.
It was back in Oscar season of 2005 (odd years in Autumn, yay!). I was in college, and one of the worst bouts of depression in my life as a result of Accutane, an acne medication that needs to be taken over a six month span. It works for many people, but it turned me into a fucking lunatic.
One of the side effects of Accutane is "suicidal tendencies". Meaning to achieve a non-pizza face, I would have to fend off urges to slit my wrists in the bathtub. My inner-voice would say things like: "Hey, Chris, wouldn't it be funny if you grabbed that kitchen knife and ran around the neighborhood till the police gunned you down?"
Fuck pimples, right?
Back then, I spent a many of nights doing what most college kids did instead of studying: fucking around on MySpace. Remember MySpace? You know, that thing that was Facebook before Facebook became Facebook?
Whereas Facebook was designed to connect you with ghosts from your past and gut the soul of humanity, MySpace was all about how many"friends" you could accumulate. And by "friends", I mean perfect strangers. I was one of those whores who had over a thousand friends while I wrote really shitty blogs about stupid college bullshit. I had a "top 8" that was constantly shifting. Wasn't that fun? Ranking how important your friends are in order for all the inter-webs to see?
Once the Accutane took flight, I was impossible to be around. My skin dried up, my hands were covered in rashes, and I was severely depressed. None of my friends wanted to hang out with me, so I spent that winter hibernating in my parent's basement. I didn't have a lady in my life at that point. I was too young for online dating, so I spent lots of time cruising MySpace for single females... with zero success.
You mean, no one wants to hook up with a pimply-faced, unstable theatre major? Impossible!!!
One day, after spending weeks getting ignored by every girl on Staten Island (and a good chunk of New Jersey), I had a girl MESSAGE ME!
MySpace Girl: "Hey."
This was progress. "Maybe things are turning around", I thought, as I rocked back and forth while facing the wall and picking a dried-up pimple on my face.
I wasn't really attracted to her pictures, but I barely had any human interaction outside of my classes for weeks, so I responded and asked her out on a date.
Back then, I needed to see every Best Picture nominee before the Oscars. Up for the top award that year was Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, a masterpiece that was beat out by 120 minutes of people being bigots in Los Angeles. It was last on my list, because as an immature, 21-year-old straight male living in my Staten Island bubble, I was intimidated by going to see the gay cowboy movie. I suggested we see that.
MySpace Girl: "Wow, really? That's really cool that you would wanna see a movie like that!"
Whatever. Let's just go.
I picked her up in my parent's Honda. At 21, I did whatever possible to avoid having to go to the door when picking up a date. I pulled the classic "I'm calling you because I think I'm a little lost but... OH! I found it! I'm outside" move. She came outside, and her entire family, Grandma and all, followed. They all waved at me. I waved accordingly.
As I pulled off with her family waving behind us like the Beverly Hillbillies, we got to chatting. She was nice enough, but didn't really bring anything exciting to the table. She went on and on about her friend's boyfriends and hanging out at Country Donuts. By the time we got to the theatre, I was bored. Not that I was contributing to the conversation or anything - I just stared at the road, miserable, giving her one-word answers. It was painfully awkward. At least she was trying to make this a pleasant date.
We got to the theatre, and I paid using free movie passes from Costco that I got for Christmas with no shame. I bought a popcorn, soda and fucking Goobers, because she liked Goobers. I told her that I needed to use the bathroom and to go ahead without me, then went outside to smoke a cigarette. As I puffed on my Parliament Light, I considered hopping in my car and driving it through the Home Depot across the street.
I plopped down next to her. She munched away on her Goobers and continued to tell me about her life, job, and family. Nothing was registering. I was depressed beyond the pines. It was a condition I had yet to understand, so my brain told me I was being an asshole, that I should be making this mind-numbing small talk with her. I kept feeling like I was a bad person for stringing this girl along on this date. At the same time, I didn't care. I hated myself. I hated her for liking me. I thought there must be something deeply wrong with her for not asking me to take her home.
All I wanted to do was get lost in a film, so I didn't have to think about how worthless my life was and how I wasn't going anywhere and how I didn't deserve to live. I just kept grunting and giving her one-word answers.
The lights went down and I was finally at peace... for the time being.
Before The Dark Knight came out, I had always said that Heath Ledger was going to be the best actor of our generation. When he was cast as the Joker, I was one of the very few people who were able to say "perfect, that's absolutely perfect". Those sentiments started that evening. His performance in Brokeback Mountain is transcendent . As someone who was just realizing his passion for performing, Heath was my first real talent crush. I got completely lost in the character and his inner-anguish. During all of the melodramatic, intense scenes ("I wish I knew how to quit you"), I was able to hold it together.
Then came the moment that would break me...
There's a scene towards the end of the film where Linda Cardellini's character approaches Ledger in a diner, distraught, asking why she blew him off. He's his usual, bottled-up self, crestfallen eyes, just eating a slice of pie, by his lonesome.
Just eating a slice of pie, by his lonesome.
A man in his late 30's, divorced with two children, broken and alone, just eating a slice of pie in a restaurant, by his lonesome.
He's pushed away everyone who's ever loved him because he can't be with the one person who makes him happy. Now he's in a diner, eating a slice of pie, by his lonesome.
My eyes welled up with tears.
Am I going to turn out that way?!? No one wants to be around me now. Am I going to be that guy, eating a slice of pie, by his lonesome, because I've pushed everyone away?!?
Tears began streaming down my face.
Is this my future?!
Or will I be dead before then?!
My mouth opened wide, my eyes shut, and I let out a long, silent cry - like one of those little kid cries that looks like a cat yawning. I started fucking BAWLING... inconsolable, heartbreaking, sobbing.
MySpace Girl glanced over and saw my howling. She did a double-take. I tried to hide that I was having a complete mental breakdown, but my cheeks looked like I sprayed them with a garden hose. She immediately went into her purse, grabbed a tissue, and handed it to me. Then took my hand, pulled it towards her, and assured me that everything will be okay.
By the end of the film, I had calmed down, with one little hiccup when Ledger decides to blow off work to go to his daughter's wedding.
Cut to the car ride home, which was mostly silent. My eyes were puffy and red, and I occasionally broke the silence by sniffing tear snots. I was too embarrassed to look in her direction.
We pulled up in front of her house. I put the car in park, which is something I didn't bother to do when I picked her up.
MySpace Girl: "I had fun! Thank you so much!"
Chris: "Yeah, me too!"
I leaned in for a kiss, and she reluctantly backed up.
Chris: "What's wrong?"
MySpace Girl: "I think It's time to call it a night."
Chris: "Are you sure?"
MySpace Girl: "Yes, I'm sure. I had a great time, though!"
Chris: "Okay. Can I call you sometime?"
MySpace Girl: "Yeah, we'll see. I have a lot of stuff going on, so... we'll see what happens."
She got out and disappeared into her split-level home.
I sent her a message on MySpace a couple of days later, asking if she wanted to get dinner and hang out. She never responded. Our paths crossed again, years later, through a mutual friend. She's married with some kids now.
I stopped taking Accutane about a week after and returned to my normal self. My skin eventually cleared up, and I became a handsome young man. It was the first time in my life where I cleared a depressive episode. I had no idea what that meant yet, nor would I for the years to come. For years I would tell this story with humor, because let's face it... having a crying fit during Brokeback Mountain on a first date is kinda funny. But it took me a long time to realize how dangerous it was - how I put my mental health and life at risk to clear a few zits from my face. How this medication is still in circulation is fucking beyond me.
I would also like to reiterate that Health Ledger is one of the greatest actors of our generation.
If you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in getting help:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.