Tag Archives: anxiety

My First Del Close Marathon

30 Jun


“Happy DCM!” Ben Ramaeka says as he hugs me. I’m standing in line at the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center waiting for my intern badge. I do what I always do when my former improv class teacher sees and immediately hugs me: “Oh! hi!” And think “I was awful in your 301 class!”

  He says “Happy DCM” like its a normal thing people say casually all the time that’s lost some meaning, like “Happy Birthday” or “The bathroom smelled like that before I went in.” But to me it’s a new greeting. DCM, or #DCM17 if you only understand Twitter speak, is the Del Close Marathon, an annual 72 hour improv celebration hosted by the founders of UCB to honor Del Close, a premiere influence on modern improvisational theater and former teacher to the likes of Amy Poehler, Adam McKay, Gilda Radnor and Bill Murray. Basically, the comedy cult leader that started it all. Teams from all over the world, UCB alums and popular show writers all come to NYC to perform on nine stages. 

It’s improv Christmas and Hanukkah (considering how many pale Jews grace their stages) rolled into one.

It was my first one and as an intern, I was required to work a shift. 

  “Now take care of this wristband,” says the volunteer automatically as he snaps a red band around my wrist. “It will get you into shows and the party space. It is IRREPLACEABLE. Don’t lose it.”

“Lose it? It’s attached to my arm how could I misplace it?” I wonder out loud.

“I know how much you love fisting, Aviva!” Yells my co-intern Spencer from a few people behind me in line. “Don’t lose it up someone’s ass!” People chuckle.

“Thanks Spencer!” I shout back.

Everyone’s a comedian.


 Since I am an orthodox Jewish person, I suffer from FOMOBOS (Fear of missing out because of Shabbat). I would be missing all the shows that started Friday night and Saturday day so as soon as we said Havdallah, Ari and I rushed out the door to see the show “Let’s Have a Ball,” featuring Kimmy Shmidt. I would also be participating in a show at 1:40 a.m., called Everybody’s Got a Gun, the premise of which would be that everyone on stage would also be holding a toy gun. In a moment of misguided brilliance, I decided that bringing my brother’s old Davy Crockett rifle would be hilarious, not quite planning on how I would carry this 2 foot semi-realistic looking gun from Washington Heights to the East Village. In the end I stuffed it into a long box taken from my father-in-law and hoped that no security guard would ask me what was in my box. 

  The show we saw was all right. Ellie Kemper was disappointingly underwhelming, but Improv Nerd‘s Brandon Gardner is a gem and actually one of my favorite improvisors at UCB so in the end it was a pretty solid. It ended at 11:15, I said goodbye to Ari, grabbed my fake gun in a box and headed down to the party space while it poured outside and my Bob’s squished with rain.

  The party space is pretty self explanatory. An area for performers, crew and VIP to hang out between shows with free alcohol and plenty of outlets to charge iPhones. The line to get in was looooooong. After waiting easily 35 minutes in the rain with other improvisors who were in various states of inebriation, I was close. The security guard at the front started yelling BACK, BACK everyone MOVE BACK. I turned around to see Nick Kroll and Rafi from The League walk right past us and into the elevator. This is an important detail for later. I also saw a high as anything dude get off the elevator and start shaking people’s hands down the line like he was the mayor.

  Finally, I made it upstairs and was greeted by a prom where I didn’t recognize anyone. It was so loud and dark, it was like a club filled with people in flannel, wearing backpacks. I stashed my gun to the side, got a beer and walked around. Eventually I ran into another intern and started chatting.

“Look, there’s Nick Kroll.” He said, pointing to a small group of people gathered outside the VIP area.

“Haha, Fuck Nick Kroll. He cut me in line before! The nerve of some people!” I said jokingly.

“You should go over there and tell him that.”

“Haha, yeah I don’t think so.”

“C’mon, go yell at him. I’ll hold him down if you want to get in any punches.”

I laughed and then kind of went, yeah OK. Let’s go yell at Nick Kroll, what else am I doing right now? Surprisingly, I had only drank 1/3 of my beer. My friend followed behind me.

“Excuse me, Nick Kroll?”

“Yes?” He said.

“I’m Aviva, I wanted to say hi.”

“Hi, are you comedian?” He asked while politely shaking my hand (his were very soft if you were wondering).

“Yeah…it’s going all right. I also wanted to tell you that you fucking cut in me in line earlier.”

He laughed, “Yeah, I don’t feel bad about that. Not even a little bit. Like, out of all the things I’ve done in my life, I feel the least bad about that.” He kind of gestured around himself like “Do you see who I am?” I nodded and felt that I had accomplished what I wanted to, but I was still in this conversation.

“Uh, well I have to go…um, get my gun now.” I said. “It was nice meeting you!” And walked away hoping that I said “TOY gun” or maybe that I had said nothing at all. My show was in ten minutes and I needed to get to the Magnet Theater.

  DCM shows ranged from hour long productions featuring Amy Poehler at 7 p.m. to 15 min bit shows starring students at 2 a.m. I was still jazzed to participate though. “Everybody’s Got a Gun,” starred around 17 people (most of whom worked with me at the East theater), which you’ll notice is a lot of people for a short show on a small stage. It wasn’t great. Before we walked on, I turned around to Spencer and said I said I was nervous. “Just remember this,” he said softly. “None of this matters at all.”

  After our show, it was too late to wait on any lines since they only kick people out of the theater every six hours and I didn’t feel like waiting four hours in the rain with my gun. I packed it in at 3 a.m. and went home to sleep for my shift on Sunday.


I woke in the morning at nine. I had meant to wake up early to wait in line to see more shows but I decided to sleep instead. My shift was at The Theater for the New City, which I remembered from my days as a theater reviewer. Most of the shows for DCM there would be short ones put on by teams. My job was to stand at the front and answer questions. Most questions were “Where are they playing Pride and Prejudice?” One old lady asked me if I was an actress because I was so pretty. That doesn’t really have anything to do with DCM but it’s my blog and I’ll tell you about random compliments if I want to!

  The shift was uneventful and kind of an anti-climactic end to the IMPROV EXTRAVAGANZA. But I don’t think I prepared for this year. I didn’t make time to see shows, I didn’t research what would be where. I didn’t give myself enough time to hang out at the party space and yell at more famous people. I think next year I’ll be readier. Hopefully it won’t rain and hopefully I won’t be lugging around a cardboard box with a heavy rifle inside.

  But ultimately, it was a great experience. Not just the marathon itself but the feeling of community surrounding it. The building excitement weeks beforehand, the fact that I could meet a visiting Australian performer at a workshop and just talk about improv and connect over beats and characters and game. It’s cool to bond with people who value big choices and mistakes and learning. It’s actually a pretty good cult and I’m glad I joined.


Bye Hannukah!

5 Dec

Happy 8th night of Hannukah! Or if you’re not Jewish, happy Wednesday!


Go on, say it. You've deserved it.

Go on, say it. You’ve deserved it.


I’m pretty sad to see the holiday go this year. Not just because I got some sweet Hannukah swag (a hat, a scarf, a robe, a winter headband, pajama pants  – for some reason everyone thought I needed to be warmer than I currently was this year. Which is nice. Penguin-printed pajama pants are always appreciated)

I also wanted to say that the outreach from people about my last post was really astounding. I’m really glad that a lot of people could relate (well not glad that other people have anxiety, but glad that I felt less alone and that my words helped).

For weeks before Hannukah, I kept thinking “Just make it to Hannukah, just make it to Hannukah.”

Why? I have no idea. I mean, I’ve always liked Hannukah but for some reason this year I just really needed to focus on miracles. Focus on the fact that God can change anything at the drop of a dreidle. And now that it’s over, I feel like some lights have gone out within me as well. But I have one more thought about the holiday before we say goodbye.

There’s a scene in the movie Whip It where Ellen Page decides that she wants to join a roller derby league to escape her boring tiny Texas town. When she first learns of the sport, she goes up to one of the team members, Kristen Wiig and says “I just want you to know that you’re all my hero.” Kristin Wiig says, “Well put some skates on. Be your own hero.”

I was thinking that last night when I was crying over something depression/anxiety/OCD induced. I thought of my own heros, my friend Mel who went through several brain surgeries and remains the most positive person I know. My mom, who dealt with her own devils and came out stronger. And thought if I can go through this and make the best of this, then I can be my own hero. And then I stopped trying to feel positive not for other people, or because I felt I had to but because I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be my own hero.


Well, maybe not this superhero.

Well, maybe not this hero.


There are a couple of things I like about Hannukah. One is that the lack of something can make us tougher. Like blind people using echolocation to “see,” when one of our strengths are taken away that doesn’t make us weaker. It can make us stronger. If we choose it. When we don’t have our “lights,” we find that we have things inside us that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. When our Temple was destroyed, yes our light was taken away. But at that moment what did we find we had that we might not have found otherwise?




The ability to take on the mighty Greek army. The devotion to believe in miracles again. The fortitude to start again.

Hannukah is all about being your own hero. Think about Yehudit, (my fave lady and whom I share a name with #Yehuditpower). She was like “You guys aren’t DOING THIS REBELLION GOOD ENOUGH! Do I have to do everything around here? BRB I’ll just go chop this Greek general’s head off.”

And then she fed him cheese and wine until he got drunk and she chopped off his head and came back to the Jews like “Lol we have to do something about this sh*t now BECAUSE THE GREEKS ARE PROBABLY GOING TO BE PISSED – so let’s do this rebellion thing right!” (I wasn’t there, but I think those are the words she used)


Here she is, casually severing some dude's head while her friend looks on like "OMG can't we do something NORMAL on Saturday nights anymore?"

Here she is, casually severing some dude’s head while her friend looks on like “OMG can’t we do something NORMAL on Saturday nights anymore?”


Something I’m going to take me this Hannukah, especially in light of whatever my brain decides to do this week is that sometimes you can’t wait for a miracle. Sometimes you need to be your own hero and believe the miracles will come later. For the good of yourself. For the good of your family. For the Jewish people. It’s hard. It’s SUPER hard.

But another thing Hannukah leaves me with is that nothing is impossible.

I recently asked my friend Mel how she stays so positive and upbeat despite all the terrible things she’s been through:

“Keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel and it will help you right through. Like going through an MRI. I have to look through to the light otherwise I feel like I’m trapped in a coffin. Just like in life. Don’t dwell on the negative.”

I asked if she ever got depressed or angry.

“Yes. Those are important emotions to feel but terrible emotions to live by.”

But sometimes the simplest solution is the one that works best. Apparently. It works for Mel, let’s see if it works for me.

Thus concludes Hannukah for this year. But the good thing about the Jewish calendar is that another holiday is right around the corner. Anyone have any good Purim costume ideas?


"Ugh! I do! Call on me!"

“Ugh! I do! Call on me!”

Thoughts From a Broken Brain

24 Nov

Hello there!

It’s kind of snowing outside. I mean, I haven’t actually seen this for myself but there’s about 6 posts on Facebook proclaiming this. And I verified with Weather.com so I feel confident in making this announcement.

I hope your Saturday has been sufficiently productive and/or relaxing.

I mentioned last week that I’ve been having some brain problems. Or what my psychiatrist called a “mental break.” Which seems to be a conglomeration of depression, anxiety and OCD. For weeks after this “break,” last month, I would just cry. For not really any reason at all – or for crazy reasons that I didn’t know why I was thinking them.

I read online that thinking about a giant stop sign helps when you’re obsessing over something. So I would Google image stop signs when my brain was spinning downhill too fast for me to keep up – it’s very hard to think about anything when you’re just staring at hundreds of STOPs.

Which inevitably led to me crying at work…staring at stop signs for 20 minutes. Until my coworkers were like “Are you OK…?”

The first time I told my therapist this, I added “So am I crazy?”

“No, you’re not crazy…” he answered soothingly (seriously though the UMD Health Center therapist they assigned me has the most soothing voice. I want to record it and play it when I fall asleep. Is that crazy?)

“Can you write that down?”

“You want me to write that down in my notes?”


“Um…sure. Not….crazy….” he wrote.

That helped.

Another thing that’s been helpful with stress has been praying again. Since this “break”, I’ve felt weirdly nostalgic for seminary (my gap year which I spent learning in Israel at an all girls seminary). I told you last week that my life was going on some weird journey – and so far it’s included me connecting back to my Judaism. Praying every morning, being more careful with Shabbat and Kosher.

It started with me finding a book in the UMD Hillel that said COURAGE! on it (I liked the exclamation point, like it was an exciting play). I read it on the train to work just to distract myself from obsessing. But it was all about letting go of anxiety and trusting God. About how all crises help us become better people. It all sounds so Delilah on the radio to me when I say it out loud. Two of my favorite parts said:

“Who asked us to move mountains? Who told us to make long-term plans? No one, if not our imaginations which trouble us with its false problems”

“Only in the middle of a struggle our hidden capacities can appear and grow. The important thing is not to let ourselves be discouraged, but to take heart, no matter what happens during the crises. Then, if we hold firm, we will succeed in transforming all our past falls into instruments for true progress.”

Which, to me said “Who told you to worry about this thing that might not happen? Who told you to freak out about events you have no control over? No one.”

Well, I mean I guess did. Or my brain did. But as a friend who’s suffered from depression and anxiety for a while told me:

“Sometimes our brains are dicks, that doesn’t mean they’re right. You are what you choose to be and do.”

The medication that I’ve been on has helped this problem that has obviously been medical (I’m not suggesting all people with depression just read COURAGE! and be cured. Even my broken brain knows that) But there’s a bunch that I’ve done that has helped the anxiety that wasn’t medical. And I hope it helps you too:

1. The stop sign thing really did help me. Something about seeing tons and tons of those bright red octagons really makes it hard to think of anything else. And then when you’re done looking at them and your coworkers are like “Why are these stop signs making you so sad you weirdo?” you can go back to work. And flip back and forth between the web tabs as needed.

2. My friend advised me to keep a gratitude journal. And write down five things that made me happy/thankful that day. Sometimes it’s hard and my list is like “I didn’t get hit by a meteorite” and “My shoes were comfortable all day” and sometimes it’s like, “My article got a lot of positive reviews” and “I got a 96 on my media law exam.” Either way, taking time to think about the good totally repaints the day. Sometimes when you have an anxiety attack it feels like it dominates and ruins your whole day but when you really think about it, there’s so much else to be grateful for. And there’s some good in every day.

3. Talk to people. I said in my short story that when you show people your scars, they love to show you theirs. I’ve found the same with emotional scars. When I opened up about my anxiety to people, so many started telling me about their struggles and how they coped. People I had no idea suffered from any problems like that. Knowing you’re not alone takes away some of the power of your fears. If others have beaten it then maybe it’s not the worst thing ever.

4. Do something for someone else. Bring in cupcakes for your coworkers. Give a dollar to a homeless man. Hold the door open for a bunch of people. Call a friend for her birthday. Pray for other people. When you stop focusing on yourself and your problems – they fade for a little bit. Plus, being a nicer person makes you feel better regardless. And baking cupcakes will make your boss totally like you more than your coworkers.

5. Ice cream. A lot of f*cking ice cream. (Did you know I had four milkshakes this week?! IS THAT NOT A WORLD RECORD? Call me, Guinness. We’ll set up a photo-shoot)

So we continue on this weird road. There’s been some interesting twists. I don’t exactly know where I’m going.

But I hope this helped someone today.



I have a little Dreidle, I made it out of Turkeys

21 Nov

Hello friends!

I missed you! I’ve missed this. I’ve missed writing for the sake of writing and not for a grade or to fulfill a requirement (as important as that is for my life right now). But I’m glad I have a second to sit here and blog for the time being.

I hope you’ve had a productive past couple of months. I think the last time I wrote it was almost Rosh Hashana and now it’s coming up on “Thanksgivvakah” (BTW, I’m so happy I’m not going to be around in 77,000 years because if I see one more “Recipes that combine Hannukah and Thanksgiving!” or “DIY hacks for your Thankgivakkah party!” I might lead a Turkey rebellion (see what I did there? I combined the rebellion of Hannukah and the fact that turkeys don’t want to be eaten for Thanksgiving – get it?! BECAUSE ITS A COMBO DAY!)

Great! You landed on Turkey! You get to apologize to Judah the Maccabee!

Great! You landed on Turkey! You get to apologize to Judah the Maccabee!

If anything, I’m bummed we combine them this year. It’s like having your birthday fall on well, Hannukah. But it’s fine, we’ll spin the wishbone, light string beans in your Menorahs and talk about how Pocahantas got Holofernes drunk and then cut off his head. It’ll be great.

I’m extra excited for Hannukah this year. And not because the Maccabeats just put out a new video. Which I’ve watched about 47,000 times. But because I’m seeing the holiday in a new light (HA! MORE JOKES!) this year.

We all know Hannukah is about miracles. It’s about the righteous beating the wicked. It’s about a tiny jug of oil burning for 7 extra days. It’s about bringing light into into the darkness that is the winter – and our spiritual winter.

But it’s also about the rededication of the Beis Hamikdash. Compared to the other stuff, the rededication almost seems like an afterthought. I mean, there’s nothing supernatural about cleaning up our holy temple and getting our stuff back together. Even though the name of the holiday alludes to the rededication, *clearly* the other stuff we celebrate is so much cooler! I never thought that the rededication was that exciting. It’s definitely not the main plot of the Rugrats Hannukah special.

Obviously the lesson of that movie was "It's OK to let babies light candles"

Obviously the lesson of that movie was “It’s OK to let babies light candles”

But in fact, it could be the biggest miracle of the holiday. When the Beit Hamikdash was new. It was a novelty, it was exciting. People were jazzed. People were talking about it. I’m sure they wrote all about it the Jerusalem Post.

But that’s to be expected. When things are new, people are gonna get behind it. The fact that the Temple was destroyed and people got jazzed *again* is an even bigger deal than when the Temple was dedicated the first time.

It is SO hard to get back up when something you’re used to gets demolished. It’s SO hard to bounce back from destruction and rebuild. If I was there during those times and saw that the Greeks had graffitied “GOD SUCKS – ZEUS RULES!” on the Aron, I might’ve been like “Ugh, guess we’re just going to have find some other way to serve God. I’m not spending my Sunday squeeging this place. Instead of a Temple, maybe we’ll make like a circus tent. A collapsable one. So if anyone tries to mess with us again, we’ll just fold it up and paint ourselves to match the forest Peeta-style until they can’t find us.”

The only logical conclusion.

The only logical conclusion.

But the Jews didn’t do that. They sighed and got back to work. When life knocks you down (or shifty Greeks) you get back up.

You get back up.

These past few weeks have been really hard for me, you guys. Something bad has happened in my brain. The pressures of school, internship, the wedding combined with a terrible night of combining alcoholic drinks, along with some chemical imbalance and hormonal imbalance has caused some sort of volcano that triggered a panic disorder.

It hasn’t been fun. I have had no experience with mental imbalance. For a while it seemed like my head a very dark place. I was scared to be alone in it. If you know what it’s like to not be able to trust your own mind, you might know what that’s like. For a while i felt hopeless that anything was going to change. That I may be stuck with these thoughts forever.

Thankfully, I’ve gotten a little better after getting help. I’m on a very weird journey right now. It’s hard to explain. It feels like this whole scary experience has been sort of a wake-up call for me. But i’m not sure what it means yet.

All I know for sure is that every bad experience you go through makes you more empathetic. Every scary thing you go through makes it easier to endure the next one. Every fear you live through is another opportunity to laugh at it.

When life knocks you down, you don’t give up.

Whether it’s Greeks, grades, accidents, weather or your own brain.

You get back up. You clean up. You light a match.

And most importantly, you don’t forget. You don’t forget your struggle because struggles make us stronger.

Be a Maccabee, be strong.

Six more days until Hannukah!



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