Hi. I have narcissistic news: Between now and December 31st, I’m going to be sharing one my 2021 resolutions with you (almost) every single day. (Not all of them will be this long and this serious, I promise <3).
2021 has been one of the most wildly-uncomfortable years of my life, personally and professionally.
The wicked demon of self-medication twisted her sharp acrylic nail into my spine, yet again. Depression, in all her empty, mundane glory became my new best friend. Insecurity and I took a bath together every single night. Jealousy knocked on my door in her basic bitch Ugg boots and when I didn’t answer she let herself in. Put her things in my underwear drawer without even asking. Self-hatred moved into my bathroom mirror. Validation became my personal trainer.
The lights went out.
And my hot pink pill organizer had never been more full.
And the funny thing is this: I truly thought for a moment there — before life as we knew it came to a screeching halt — I had my shit together.
I’d done years of therapy, you see.
My dream had come true. I’d written a book. A book I was (am) proud of.
My other big life dream came true. I recorded GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP as an audiobook.
I’d published thousands of articles on the internet bestowing millions of readers with big-sister advice about everything from piecing back together a shattered heart, to finally looking a substance abuse issue in the eye, to confronting a sexual trauma buried so deep inside of oneself you need pliers to unearth it, to embracing sexuality when life is full of homophobic bigots, to staving off a panic attack without relying on a pretty pink pill, to vetting a therapist. Sometimes I even advised my reader on what to wear if she didn’t want fuckboys to talk to her at the bar and sometimes I offered her my unsolicited opinions on pop-culture too.
I had a pretty pink workspace in Soho. They kept Chanel beauty products in the bathroom.
I moved into my dream home. A mid-century modern glass house that sat on top of a Northern New Jersey mountain and had jaw-dropping views of the glittery New York City skyline.
My book was set to launch in late May and I was busy planning a glamorous launch party and small book tour.
This was going to be my year to finally shine. I’d finally pushed through the blocks that were getting in the way of ~my success~ you see. The road was crystal clear!
I looked around me with big clear eyes. I was finally acquiring tangible things. It’s what I’d always wanted. It’s what I worked so hard for.
And then all of it went away.
The house. The pretty pink office. The glamorous book launch party. The city. Stable income. My job. My identity.
And then all these bad things things came creeping back into my orbit. There was room for them now. They had been waiting for the day the good things saw themselves out.
I was mad. At myself.
Because I realized something major: If I had built an authentically strong foundation inside of me — I wouldn’t have slipped through the floorboards the moment the storm hit.
And I was afraid to speak up. Yeah, I wrote a couple of half-hearted essays where I candidly admitted to “struggling.” I told you about my OCD flair-up, my binge-eating, my covid blackouts, my medication fails. I even shared a dark voicemail I recorded that is so cringe-worthy it’ll make even your dog shudder with residual shame.
But I haven’t shared with you the whole truth. Just parts of the truth. I do that a lot. In the words of the great Courtney Love, “I am doll parts.” I wanted to be a fully realized American Girl doll but I’m just the limbs and maybe the even the bald head on a really good day.
I guess I was scared to share the truth.
I’m embarrassed to say that what I’ve experienced this past year is a relapse of sorts. Not your typical “sober to drinking” relapse (though I way over-drank and am doing a month of sobriety in January like every other bloated bitch in this town). It was a lifestyle relapse. A relapse of bad self taking over good self.
And it wasn’t so much that I was afraid to be real with you. I was afraid to be real with myself. There’s no turning back after you press the publish button. You can’t lie to your therapist after you’ve pressed the publish button. You can’t lie to yourself after you’ve pressed the publish button.
And for most of COVID I’ve chosen to be in denial about how low I’d sunk. I mean this was the year that I was supposed to rise to the surface and see the glimmery light, right? I felt humiliated to still be sitting on the ocean floor.
So I hid. I hid from my wife, from myself, from my family, from shrink, and from you. I’ve been trying to figure out why I did that. And all I can come up with is that I’m ashamed. Shame makes you hide shit. It’s why people keep eating disorders and addictions a deep dark secret. They are ashamed that they can’t be like everyone else. They are ashamed of the dark, gross impulse to self-destruct. We all just want to be headband girls. No one wants to be sticking their fingers down their throat at home while the headband girls have “dinner and drinks” with their headband girlfriends.
I know all this because I’ve lived it. I’m living it. (Not the bulimia, but other shameful things I never set out to do in this life).
And now, in this moment I feel very ashamed that my road to *true* mental health hasn’t been linear like I’d hoped it would be. I’m ashamed that I’ve been repeating the mistakes I’d dutifully coached everyone to avoid in GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP.
But now that I think about it, like really fucking think about it. Holy-fuck, is anyone’s mental health journey linear?
And maybe — just maybe — I needed this relapse to get to the next round of the video game I’ve been playing since birth.
Maybe I needed to spiral further into the rabbit hole so I could finally reach the root of these issues. These issues that slaughter my potential and make life hurt. I don’t think life is supposed to hurt. You can’t pop pills to numb away pain forever. It will obliterate your liver and that’s no way to live.
Maybe my back had to finally break. So it could heal for real. Slowly. One vertebrae at a time. I mean how long can you go through life wearing a stiff metal brace?
In the words of the great American Buddhist, Pema Chodron: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”
I had to keep exposing myself to my ghosts in order for them to stop haunting me, I guess.
And maybe I should be honest about how truly uncomfortable and excruciatingly painful this process is of exposing myself “over and over to annihilation” has been . Even if it contradicts everything I’ve ever advised you not to do as a your local lesbian advice columnist and self-help author.
Maybe I’m a different kind of self-help writer. One who’s power lies in sharing her story as she’s living it, not once she’s resolved it. Maybe my story is meant to unfold in real time. Maybe I’m not a self-help writer at all. I’ve never felt more confused as to where I fit as a writer than right now.
But here’s what I do know.
I refuse to gloss over the truth in 2021. That is my first and most important resolution. No more lying. No more with-holding facts because I’m afraid of what you’ll think of me (which we know really means: I’m afraid of what I’ll think of me.)
I want to break my habit of tying everything up in a pretty pink bow. Pretty pink bows belong bouncing in cheerleader’s ponytails, not in writing. Not in life. Not in relationships.
Because pretty pink bows distract us from the most important the thing in the world: The Truth.
The truth is the only thing that matters.
The truth is the bolt-cutter that slices your wrists free from the shackles of shame. The truth is oxygen. It’s the life-raft that’s miraculously thrown into a roaring sea when you’re seconds away from giving up and letting the tide win. The truth makes you feel human, and when you’re human you develop real connections with other humans. Without the truth, you are a war prisoner to the battle of your past. Without the truth, you are painfully lonely. You are depressed. You are anxious. You need a cocktail of medicine to get you through the day.
But the truth is the key that opens your front door and lets the sunlight in.
And since I haven’t been living my truth, I’ve been in complete darkness. And I might’ve gone through a goth phase in the eighth grade, but I don’t like the dark. Never have. It’s cold. Isolating. The energy is dead. It fuels me with the reckless desire to drink myself alive.
I will not get better unless I’m honest.
And I can not live up to my true potential as a writer unless I’m honest.
And I won’t feel a semblance of peace until I’m honest.
So in 2021 I’m going to stop sugar-coating the shit. I mean let’s get real: Shit isn’t sugar, Zara. Stop pretending it is.
And because I’ve been so lonely and because you’ve expressed to me that you’ve felt lonely lately too — I think we should embark on the journey of getting fucking real together.
It will be scary and it will feel very naked and very vulnerable but I promise you, doors will open for us that we would’ve never even knew existed the moment we step into our truth! I know it sounds woo-woo, but the universe responds to the truth. The truth is God, in a way. It’s the most wildly powerful and deeply feared energy-source in the world.
But like God herself, the truth is also what keeps us alive in our darkest hours. And this hour has been dark. And I want to live.
My debut book GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP: THE BAD GIRL’S GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR SH*T TOGETHER is available NOW on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, AUDIBLE, and BAM! If you send me a screenshot of your order, I’ll send you swag!
Praise for GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP
“Zara has the rare talent of marching into the deepest, darkest moments of life—the mascara-teared and alcohol-soaked—scooping them up, and thrusting them into the light with amazing clarity, forgiveness, and compassion. As her editor at Elite Daily, I had the honor of watching Zara blossom into the emotionally raw and poetic writer she is now. Her gripping first-person narratives help every woman (including me) come to terms with her own demons or insecurities in a refreshingly comfortable way. There’s a reason she’s built up an army of ‘babes’ who are empowered by the words of their dear big sister, Z: Her candid honesty and no bullshit advice are simply addicting.”
– Faye Brennan, Sex & Relationships Director, Cosmopolitan
“Reading Zara is like reading your own thoughts—only sexier and much more brilliantly written.”
– Kaitlyn Cawley, former Editor-At-Large, Bustle Media Group and former Editor-in-Chief, Elite Daily
“Reading Zara’s writing will make you feel like you’re at your cool-as-hell big sister’s sleepover party. You will be transfixed by her unflinching honesty and words of wisdom, and she’ll successfully convince you to not only ditch the shame you feel about the raw and messy parts of yourself, but to dare to see them as beautiful.”
– Alexia LaFata, Editor, New York Magazine
“If Cat Marnell and F. Scott Fitzgerald had a literary baby it would be Zara Barrie. She’s got Marnell’s casual, dark, downright hilarious tone of an irreverent party girl. But then she also has Fitzgerald’s talent for making words literally feel like they sparkle on the page. You instantly feel more glamorous after reading a page of Zara’s writing, even when the page is talking about getting into a screaming match with her girlfriend outside of a bar on a Sarasota street corner while high on benzos. I’ve always been a fan of Zara’s writing, but Girl, Stop Passing Out in Your Makeup takes it to the next level. With shimmery words that make her dark stories sparkle, she seamlessly manages to inspire even the most coked-out girl at the party to get her shit together.”
– Candice Jalili, Senior Sex & Dating Writer, Elite Daily
“Self-help meets memoir. Party girl meets wise sage. Beauty meets reality. Zara Barrie is the cool older sister you wish you had. The one that lets you borrow her designer dresses and ripped up fishnets, buys you champagne (she loves you too much to let you drink beer), and colors your lips with bright pink lipstick. She’ll take you to the coolest parties, and will stick by your side and she guides you through the glitter, pain, danger, laughter, and what it means to be a f*cked up girl in this f*cked up world (both of which are beautiful despite the darkness). Girl, Stop Passing Out in Your Makeup is for the girls that are too much of a beautiful contradiction to be contained. Zara is a gifted writer—one second she’ll have you laughing over rich girls agonizing over which Birkin bag to buy, the next second she’ll shatter your heart in one sentence about losing one’s innocence. Zara is the nuanced girl she writes for—light, irreverent, snarky, bitchy, funny; and aching, perceptive, deep, flawed, wise, poised, honest—all at once. Perhaps the only thing that can match Zara’s unparalleled wit and big sister advice is her candid humor and undeniable talent for the written word. Zara is one of the most prolific and entertaining honest voices on the internet—and her talent is only multiplied in book form. Girl, Stop Passing Out in Your Makeup is for the bad girls, honey.”
– Danya Troisi, Executive Editor, GO Magazine