Self Care Sunday: Retail Therapy Edition–by Emily Balcerak

Happy Sunday! I am taking things in a new direction with Self Care Sunday (since there is only so much I can tell you on my own) and am going to begin featuring voices from the scene. Community SCS’s will give industry folks a chance to discuss their own experiences with mental health issues and the healthy ways that they cope with the stressors of this lifestyle. Our first community post comes from Emily Balcerak, a wonderful friend of mine, contributing writer for Table Three Media, and drummer for Fake Estate  Read her self care below!

I handed the cashier behind the counter $21.50 in exact change from my undeniably sweaty hands that dripped with worry of perfectly warranted small talk. Exact change was always good. It spares me a few agonizing moments that could otherwise be spent having to, you know, talk. The counter, draped in vintage tour posters from the Grateful Dead, incense and jam-band flyers only made the incongruity of my pick–Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out–a little more evident. I wasn’t home, I was in someone else’s land. I was always in someone else’s land despite my bi-weekly visits to the same shop. “Do you need a bag for that?” “N-no. I’m good, thank you. Have a good one.” With the cellophane clinging to my palms, back home I went with my pay day purchase. This is my routine: Retail therapy. Vinyl retail therapy.

The attacks started at age 11, fortunately, around the same time I would sneak into my older brother’s room and figure out melodies by ear on a guitar I was told to never touch, and listen to his Misfit’s CD’s I swore I would never even look in the direction of. I recall at this age, not even ever hearing of the words, “anxiety,” or “stress,” in day-to-day life. in the world of a pre-teen girl, there is no anxiety or stress, there’s just Kid Cuisine with that godforsaken penguin on the box, Pop Star magazine and boy bands. So I thought. Little did I know, these habits I had gotten into of disobeying my brother’s word, and these overwhelming feelings of alienation would set me up with a lifetime of support with my anxiety professionally classified as both “generalized,” and “social.”

On my 14th birthday, I had bought my first vinyl record from Generation Records in the East Village, Manhattan while on a trip from Long Island, my respective home. Rather, my first vinyl record ever. Well, a few actually. In the mix was The Clash’s self-titled, the New York Dolls self-titled, and the Stooges self-titled because you know, I was punk, (Whatever that meant) and because a band’s first record was always their best. (Come on, 14 year-old me.) Though my still-developing musical views were laughable at best, I recall feeling that rush of the purchase as I still do today. The impending anxiety of approaching the counter didn’t matter, I was getting records. Records that were made by my idols. Records that I could listen to at home to briefly curb the sense of alienation that’s common in a teen’s life. Sacrificing a few moments of excruciating social anxiety was worth it. “Do you need a bag for that?” “N-no. I’m good, thank you. Have a good one.” I wanted to carry them. I was no longer in someone else’s land, I had my land with me.

Now, I wouldn’t advise one to spend all of their money on records in an attempt to feel better, however, I would advise one who has an interest in them to figure out a time when they are financially flexible enough, maybe once or twice a month to make that purchase happen. Recognizing the correlation between providing for one’s self, supporting your interests, and how that makes you feel is an important realization to make. Retail therapy is very real, but by the same token, easy to get out of hand and is most effective in moderation, so please spend safely and be cautious.

At some point on my timeline of musical development, i remember seeing a quote from Brian Fallon online. It read, “33 RPM. Life’s not so bad at that speed.” Although my love for the Gaslight Anthem has dissipated in recent years, through all the anxiety attacks and aversions to seemingly regular and benign social interactions, this phrase has stuck out to me, well, like a Sleater-Kinney record in a predominantly classic rock record store that was just waiting to be bought on pay day. Maybe I didn’t just need someone to listen to me, but maybe I just needed to listen to someone.

If you are interested in contributing to Self Care Sunday or the Punk Talks blog, email punktalks(at)gmail(dot)com.

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