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The Dark Side of Trying To Get Your Physical and Emotional Shit Together

January 17, 2012

Yesterday, I was supposed to work a lot during the day and drive downtown in the evening to learn the steps for a tap dance flash mob. Neither of these things happened. Because the cleanse broke me. Instead, I fell to dramatic, sobbing pieces during the day and then had to miss the flash mob to make sure the dog didn’t die. *

* The dog is not dead. The dog is not to be trusted within a paw’s distance of a bottle of pills ever again, but the dog is not dead.

When you do a cleanse, the books warn you about emotional detox. It’s normal, don’t be alarmed, the world isn’t ending. Basically, they’re saying that your reward for eating like a healthy person is to cry a lot. Really? I feel betrayed by this system. And unless the authors of these books are prepared to come to my house at 3 a.m. to give me a hug, they just shouldn’t be so perky about the world not ending. **

** The world didn’t end. The Mayan Calendar didn’t kick in because I bought this off Amazon.

But the cleanse did steal all my caps and exclamation points. I just didn’t have the heart to move my pinky to the shift key and that was oddly disconcerting.

It also kept me awake until four in the morning. It’s really dark at four in the morning. That’s not even meant to be all deep and symbolic. It’s just…really black.

4 a.m. 

See? Dark.

The first couple of weeks on this cleanse, I felt amazing. Energetic and creative. Like I’d pulled my ass kicking boots out of storage and they still fit. Then something set me off yesterday and suddenly I was drowning in grief. A lot of grief. Waves and waves of grief. That didn’t let up for hours.

I realized yesterday that I’ve been actively avoiding grief for years. I don’t let myself properly mourn – not deaths or breakups or passing phases of life.


All I can say about yesterday’s unexpected Grief 101 is “Man, this suuuuucks.” No wonder I avoided feeling that way for years.

Emotional detox is kind of like cleaning the drain in an apartment shared by three girls with long hair. The top looks all pristine and sparkly until one day everything clogs up. So you pull up the drain and realize the whole thing is packed with wads of slimy hair and encrusted with soap scum until you have to stop inspecting the gunk and just mutter a heartfelt ewwwww as you drop it in the trash and wonder how you ever let it get so bad. It got so bad because you couldn’t see it. You were just trying to shower and get on with your day, and you never gave the drain a second thought. But once you yank out all the gunk, everything starts flowing properly again.

Apparently, my soul was slimy and full of hairballs. Hairballs I metaphorically coughed up all over the carpet yesterday.

I got through it. I cried and sobbed and felt like my heart was literally cracking open, but I stuck to that @#$% cleanse. To the letter of the law, if not the spirit. I didn’t dive face first into a bucket of fried chicken, but I sure as hell wasn’t eating 80 percent vegetables either. More like 100 percent fried polenta and vegan cheese and episodes of Modern Family.

Then it was bad again for hours. More grief stricken will-this-ever-end-who-knew-pain-could-feel-like-this, until I found a video at 3:30 in the morning. Watching it on my phone in the deep dark quiet reminded me that there are good things, things beyond 33 years of pent up grief. Even when I’m in a hole I don’t yet see the way out of, there’s creativity and people who can move their bodies in astounding ways.


Hey, look. My caps are back. And I feel like me again. That’s a relief.

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  • Reply margosita January 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    As a girl with long hair and perpetually clogged drains I really loved that metaphor.

  • Reply Bridgette January 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    oh how i’ve missed my amber!! hopefully i get to see her soon… ;)

    • Reply Amber January 18, 2012 at 11:31 am

      I miss you too! Portland road trip with Adam soon. Promise.

  • Reply Kelly L January 18, 2012 at 8:27 am

    An Amber with no caps-lock makes the world a sad and empty place.

    I love you. Hang in there.

    • Reply Amber January 18, 2012 at 11:33 am

      Thanks, love!


      Seriously, it was a super rough day, but the next day I felt totally peaceful. And now I’m myself again. I don’t know, man. This health shit is crazy.

  • Reply mona January 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    I know how that is, to step on those awful feelings until they surface and you’re doing an ugly cry because you cannot help it. I hope it really helped you and I’m glad yo’re back: ALL CAPS!

    • Reply Amber January 18, 2012 at 7:32 pm

      The ugly cry is underrated. I feel so much better after a nice, solid bout. Thank you. :)

  • Reply merlin513 January 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    eesh, if I hadda had internet at all yesterday I could have given you a virtual hug for your 3:30 a.m. crisis. I was up cleaning up after a cat coughing up ACTUAL hairballs beside the bed…you know, right where your foot lands when you groggily attempt to get up in the morning…. Ah heck with it, have a ***GUH*** anyways!

    • Reply Amber January 18, 2012 at 7:24 pm

      I take all hugs – morning, evening, digital, spelled backwards or upside down. Thank you.

  • Reply Ryan January 18, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    One of my dogs popped open a bottle of advil and ate what was left in the bottle last week. And I didn’t realize it happened till the next morning when I found the empty bottle under the couch. A bag of IV fluids, a day of vet observation, and $300 later he seems to have come through the experience just fine. What’s so tasty about advil anyway?

    I’m sorry you missed the flash mob rehearsal. I would love to do a tap dance flash mob. That stupid sound of music one in the train station makes me cry every time i watch the video.

    • Reply Amber January 18, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      Right? If you’re going to eat something illicit, at least make it a bag of chocolate M&Ms or a cat or something. I don’t understand dogs.

  • Reply kelly January 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    And this is why I’m still scared of cleanses and feelings. I’m sorry about the horrible grief and also the 3:30 a.m. but glad to see you have you CAPS back and also that the pony dog is not dead. Next time you have a crisis at 3:30 a.m. tweet me because I’m usually awake then because of all the insomnia. Lastly, if you know how to tap dance and aren’t giving me virtual lessons on the Internets, I’m going to need that to happen immediately.

    • Reply Amber January 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm


      I mean, I totally want to tweet you at 3:30 a.m. but I don’t want to do it because my heart just fell out of my chest. We’ll find another reason. Also, I’m sorry about the insomnia. Also, YOUTUBE TAP LESSONS, OH MY GOD. This needs to happen.

  • Reply Amanda January 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    You are one of the best writers ever. I am so glad I discovered your blog. And this video has inspired me to go for the run that I had decided not go on tonight. Thank you.

    • Reply Amber January 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      Oh, wow. You’re the loveliest. Thank you.

      Also, run! Yes! Endorphins! Highly recommended!

  • Reply terra January 18, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    I sometimes forget that our emotional and physical states are tied together very tightly. And then I’ll go for a long run, push myself further than I have in a long, long time and I’ll get to the end sobbing, drudging through some pent up grief and agony I didn’t know I was harboring.

    Hugs, Bossy Panda. I’m glad your CAPS LOCK are back.

    • Reply Amber January 18, 2012 at 7:30 pm

      ALL THE CAPS LOCK HUGS FOR TERRA BEAR. Especially when pent up emotions are being harbored. No more harboring. This is a harbor free zone.

  • Reply Marieka January 18, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I’m sorry that the cleanse brought up all of the emotional stuff, but maybe there are good things on the other side of all of the pain? I hope so.

    I know well how things that you stuff down can surge up on you when you least expect it. I thought that I was dealing with the anniversary of my dad’s death (on Christmas, no less), but then it all burbled up into an “ugly cry” in front of a handful of people. It was kind of like lancing a boil (sorry for the gross analogy), but I did feel better afterward.

    Glad to see that THE CAPS are back!

    • Reply Amber January 18, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Definitely, definitely good things. Now I feel amazing. Go figure.

      Lancing a boil is super apt. And I’m so glad you felt better after. Funny how that works. I need to remember that next time the urge to repress whispers in my ear.

  • Reply Squid January 19, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Glad to see you are making it through! Yes the life change is not easy, but in the end you will be a much stronger happier you! Good luck and keep trucking through!

    and very happy the dog is ok! I think everyone with a dog has had that OH $#%^ what did he/she get into, or…. Really…. I just worked 12 hours on nights and you got into to that super sized Hershey bar right before I got home, 1800-VET-BILL, can you make my dog puke and be ok again?

  • Reply Peter Varvel January 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Even for a gay man, I am much too emotional wear-my-heart-on-sleeve-weepy from time to time. (that’s why I’m constantly yearning to perform – I have too much emotion that needs expressing!) Maybe it’s connected to my frequent and sporadic bouts of healthy eating in small portions?
    I do hope that nothing I have asked you recently was a catalyst to this emotional detox, even partially.
    We will counterbalance the grief with the joy of another flash mob performance in the very near future!

  • Reply ameena January 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Oh noes! I’m so sorry, love. I’m glad your caps are back and that you are feeling a shift towards normal. Thank you for writing about the dark side of the cleanse. You honesty is beautiful.

    also, that drain full of all the hair? i literally experienced it today. I’m happy to have my pipes return to semi-normal flowing. but ewwwwwww.

  • Reply Felicia January 27, 2012 at 6:00 am

    I just found your blog today, and I can’t stop reading! That shower drain metaphor was SPOT ON and probably my favorite thing that I’ve read today. Granted it’s only 9AM, but that’s still an achievement!

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