Posted by: turtlebella | 8 May 2006

Literary Luna-day

As I've written about before, I have experienced depression on-and-off for a great part of my life. When I was in college I was depressed more or less the whole time. My sophomore year was a particularly tough one. I was failing organic chemistry, throwing into question my career goals (not for the first or last time, mind you). My brother Bear was homeless and would collect-call me and ask me to give him our mother's credit card number. I spent hours sobbing on the phone with him and feeling horrible for the rest of the week. So I dropped organic chem and decided to take a semester off from college in the spring to try and get some perspective.

I ended up working as a volunteer for the United Farm Workers in San Francisco. At the time everyone who worked for the UFW was technically a volunteer, from the President on down to the lowliest (me) and made a minimal amount of money. So my mother, angel that she is, pretty much subsidized my life for those six months. I was still depressed but in therapy too. And then I found this little book in a wonderful bookstore in Oakland. Diary of a Whacked Out Bitch, by Judith A. Heinz. (I think this would actually make a wonderful title for a blog…) The novel? memoir? is written as a diary and tells the story of a waitress turned paralegal turned waitress turned roamer of the US. She feels things deeply, both on a personal level and on a global level. She worries about how no one makes eye contact on the metro, how people walk right by homeless people, about why her boyfriend – and society – seem to want her to be someone other than who she is. It is by turns heart-wrenching and very very funny. She is the whacked out bitch of the title, a name she co-opted when a boyfriend of a friend called them that. There are parts of the book that are still a part of my vernacular. For example, during one of the many road trips she takes, she and her friend come up with new "Plans of the Day" every so often. Which are plans for their future that are, well, whacky. Or at the very least quirky. Every time I think of a new cool thing to do when I grow up it becomes my Plan of the Day. And I'll call up my best whacked out bitch friend, gigglygirl, and tell her about it (I made gigglygirl read it too, so she knows what I'm talking about).

This slim book helped me through my depression. It showed me that I wasn't the only person in the world that felt some of these things. I actually highlighted the sentences and paragraphs that I felt resonated with me and showed them to my therapist. I couldn't believe that a stranger had access to my mental and emotional processes. And while I despaired of many the same things, I knew tht I wasn't alone. And that's at least half the battle with depression.

Unfortunately, the book appears to be out of print, although you can find it used. I recommend it to any young woman who might be depressed. Or who would like to read about an idiosyncratic, independent woman trying to make sense of the world, who sometimes makes mistakes and encounters setbacks but continues to reach out to her friends, her sisters, and her birds to find solace in this crazy, fucked up world.


Responses

  1. i highly recommend this book. a must-read for anyone who feels.

    my plan of the day: to buy a smart car (i don’t know any html, whatsoever, so cannot provide a link for this, but google smart car and see what comes up), and sell pastries out of it, using a specially fitted window where people can place orders and i can fill them in the back seat.

    i can’t believe it’s out of print! i hope i still have my copy. i may have lent it to a friend . . .

    • I would like you to know first of all that my sister Judith Heinz, was the first of the WOB’s (As we have nicknamed our tribe. 6 children, 5 of them girls) in our family, there are several more. I cried while reading this post and the comments thereafter. Judy was very talented. After moving to Minnesota, where she grew up, she went back to school to get her teaching certificate. She taught English to Spanish speaking children in the St. Paul Schools. She made a huge difference in many peoples lives. I was very close to her in age, and also very close to her prior to her successful suicide in 2001. Exactly 12 years from the attempt described in the book, she succeeded in her final curtain call. It has shattered my family. Judy was the 5th child, I am the 6th and final.

      It is truly amazing to me how children who grow up in the same family, with the same parents, the same rules, can grow up to be so different. As women we all have suffered some type of depression or anxiety of some sort, through our adult years. How an individual handles things varies. Judy was an introvert, I am an extrovert. Perhaps that is why I am still alive. I also have two beautiful adult children, that I could not destroy in the way suicide destroys those who are left behind. There is so much guilt…so many questions are left for those behind, that will never be answered. What makes life so unbearable that you would hand off your pain, to your family and friends?

      To all of you who laughed and cried through the book and have found solace in her Ideals, I applaud you. I read the book every time I feel her around me and need to get closer to her. I see her every day on Highway 36 sitting on top of a light pole. She is now one of her birds. A hawk, that flies free. I miss the African grays; Sid and Glo. Most of all I miss my sister, with all my heart and wish there had been something I could have done. I also know in my heart, there is nothing more I could have done. I was with her the day before she made this choice. She was staying at my parents house after the next man left her for another woman. She said, “I am going to the post office, and I will be back later”. She never arrived. I knew instinctively long before the weekend was through, she was not coming back. Not in body, anyway. Judy is with us all everyday with the words of wisdom, and the beautiful artistry she left behind. Stay strong everyone.

      • I wrote you a personal email, as you left your email available. I can’t believe I am so lucky as to meet you on these pages.

        Re depression, I’d like to keep chatting, because I have come through the tunnel a great deal, and with the help of therapy, particularly a guy in Seattle, and my Higher Power, and literally facing my fears and doing it anyway, like; working for white men in corner offices (even tho i’m white, they scared me), and going to russia, siberia, ukraine, belarus, crawling across railroad tracks (me the inner wimp), all of this and meds helped me. Today i am 72, teach writing, The Courage to Write, have written 2 books, Without A Net: a Sojourn in Russia, and You Carry the Heavy Stuff, today’s world, essays, poetry, spunky, funny, deep, spiritual, about falafels and working behind a cubicle. Diary of a Wacked Out Bitch got me through a horrendous period of my life, and I’ll never forget the author or the book; it has helped countless women. Isn’t that what it’s all about at the end of the day or our days, i.e., Who Did We Help?

        Love and courage to all,

      • This book came to me on a whim, out of nowhere, and it must have been written in the stars. The diary, in my opinion, would be so so so helpful to a lot of people (including myself) who just can’t accept satisfaction from a surface level life. I read through the pages over and over in hopes to soak up as much of Judith Heinz’s insight as is possible to an outside reader. Thank you so much for sharing another thoughtful view on the wisdom behind the whacked-out words. Whacked-out bitches loud and proud!

  2. excellent plan of the day, gigglygirl! i do adore the smart cars…you can park head on in a parallel space. cool. ooooh, you can back in to the parking space and sell the pastries from the back window…wait they do have hatchback, yes? you know, i also have seen slightly-larger smart car in portugal. it has a whacky, clever name too, but i can’t remember it. my plan of the day is to try and remember things more. do you think i have early onset alzheimer’s????

  3. you are not suffering from early-onset alzheimer’s. it’s called modern life. too much information, too little time to absorb and assimilate into your lexicon of daily life. what really pisses me off is when i can remember the extraneous, trivial stuff that has no pertinence to my life, but not things like when i’m supposed to go to the dentist, etc. maddening!!!!!

  4. The author of the Whacked-Out Bitch was a friend of mine…. I sorry to report that the reason the book is out of print is … only Judy’s soul is on this planet. Her depression got the best of her, a great loss in my life.

  5. Jennie, this is so sad!!! I saw some reference somewhere on-line that Judith had died but I couldn’t find anything else. Once upon a time I wrote her saying that I was profoundly influenced by her book and she wrote me back- a handwritten note- telling me to hang in there and reach out during my depressions. I’m sorry she wasn’t able to make it through her own depression. I’m sorry for your own personal loss too, as well as the loss for the rest of us readers.

  6. that makes me sad; i just found this book; am giving it to my daughter in law; this book saved me when i was a legal secretary; if anyone knows moe about Judith, God bless her soul; can they email me or leave word on my sorry-gnat blogspot?

    gratitude and love to all out there!

  7. Aloha Ester, i’m a friend of Judith & her family, will contact her sister & inquire if she’s willing to communicate with you. JW

  8. If anyone interested in, “Diary Of A Whacked Out Bitch” reads this post and wants to discuss the book or the author, feel free to contact me @ rheinz2004@hotmail.com

    The road of life that leads into depression is full of hairpin turns, steep valleys and dips. There is always hope. “Keep the Faith”…and find humor anywhere you can.

  9. Sorrygnat,

    I rarely access my Hotmail account so be patient. I will give you an alternate method of contact, once I access the email.. I appreciated your post, and congratulate you on ALL of your successes in life.

  10. I worked with Judy at a restaurant in Alexandria, VA. A more gifted, talented, bright, and engaging person I have never met. She was beautiful, and I am so glad we became friends.

    I am haunted to this day at her passing, and am so glad I have a signed copy of her book; a little reminder of her brief earthly sojourn that I will always treasure. I really admired Judy, and miss her to this day.

  11. Hello – I love this book! I received it from one of my sisters in 1998 when I was struggling with major transitions in my life. Reading it while in therapy at the time was very therapeutic and freeing! I am deeply saddened by discovering the news that Judy completed suicide. Her book was really important to me and still is. So much so that I passed it along to another woman who needed inspiration from Judy. The same sister who gifted the book to me is now going through a huge shift in her life and so, I found a used copy of the book on Amazon and it is being shipped to her so she can re-read it. Judy’s inspiration lives on and Its the gift that keeps on giving! PS…Judy has also inspired me to write a story about a woman who learns to “Walk in beauty.”


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