You may not believe it by looking at me, but I am a person that other people consider “put together” someone who “has it all and does it all” or more plainly a “g-d superwoman”. “Yeah, sure”, you say. “You thiiiiink people feel this way about you. Good for you”. But, I’m telling you, it’s true. And I have brought evidence. Real life messages sent to me via email, Facebook, or text from real life human beings making the assertion that I am somehow (all of the things I mentioned before):
Dear Cassie: You appear to be the hardest working mama in showbiz these days.
Dear Cassie: I'm so impressed with your drive! You seem to have found a great balance of spending time with your daughter and moving your career forward. Can you offer words of wisdom?
Dear Cassie: You are one of the most inspiring and ferocious people I know!
Dear Cassie: You are an inspiration - terrific mom, friend, actress, teacher, ...
Dear Cassie: You are a fearless goddess warrior, hear you roar.
That’s just a small smattering of the completely undeserved praise that is hoisted upon me. This assumption that I am superhuman, great at many things, and totally in control is false. Completely and utterly wacko crazy town wrong.
Looking back, this has always been the case. Growing up, grownups, teachers and parents always assumed that I was a good kid, a leader, and “with it”. Someone they could count on. Meanwhile, I was smoking cigarettes at summer camp, dabbling in grownup substances far too early, and kickin’ it with dudes who were waaaaaay too old to be holding hands with a 16 year old. But, I had them fooled! I was treasurer of the student council (what?!), Queen of the Madrigals (because that was a cool thing to do…it was.), and generally left alone because I was a “good kid”, with a “good head on my shoulders”, a leader.
This infallible façade held fast until my third year of college when I had one fumble that exposed my true “troubled” colors. I went to a fancy acting conservatory and every year they held a big gala fundraiser. It’s a big honor to be a part of it; the biggest honor comes when you’re a 4th year. Select 4th years are chosen to be escorts for the fancy, big name, famous guests. You get to spend the evening with them, introduce them during the gala, and sit with them at their table. It was a very big deal. As a 3rd year you’re not eligible to do something this swanky, so you take on other jobs. I was asked to be a costumed raffle ticket seller. If anyone knows me, I hate asking for money. Even if the money isn’t for me…it just makes me uncomfortable and twitchy. On top of the asking for money task, I was costumed in my most recent theatre school costume – a sexy crow. Yes, you heard that right. A sexy crow. I wore a see through short dress, with a black push up bra, hooker heels, and a giant crow hat on my head. Funnily enough, this wasn’t the first time I’d had to dress up as a bird for a gig….there was that time when I was the Wendy’s Chicken and got punched in the beak at a high school basketball game…but that’s another story.
Y’all have to know where this is heading…. Obviously, I stole tons of drinks to make it through the night. So much champagne and wine and lord knows what else. Surprisingly, the evening didn’t end with a reprimand from anyone on staff. The next day, week, month wore on and no grown up said anything to me about my “drunken sexy crow at the gala” escapade. My friends gave me hell and I’m pretty sure I kissed someone else’s boyfriend on the dance floor….but as far as I knew my “with it” façade was relatively in tact with the powers that be. Cut to next year, my 4th year. The sign up sheet goes up for the gala and of course I sign up. Who WOULDN’T want this put together leader with a good head on her shoulders to be an escort for one of the fancy famous people? I get a note that I’m to see the Dean and some woman that I can’t remember her job title but she did a lot and was very intense. They sit me down and tell me that due to my poor behavior last year I won’t be allowed to be an escort. Wait. What? A YEAR later? They’re reprimanding me a YEAR later? I start to slink lower and lower in my chair nodding woefully. I’m then informed that I AM going to the gala, however. I WILL be sitting at a table with donors and I am NOT to have one sip of alcohol the entire night. They tell me I will be watched at all times and if I drink, I will be escorted out of the event. Wait. What? They have me mistaken for someone else. This kind of talking to doesn’t happen to ME. But it did. And I went. And I stole a few sips of wine just to spite ‘em.
My adult life soldiered on and I continued to make poor choices in my private life while looking like a real bad ass, “with it” human on the outside. Most notably, the whirlwind romance with a man 23 years my senior. I was 24. Do the math. You know what, don’t bother, I’ll tell you….he was old as dust.
Luckily, I found a good fella who supported my intense work ethic, found my slightly crazy tendencies charming, and cheered me on when I needed to rebel. What a guy. The good fella turned into a husband and then into a father….don’t worry I’m the mom.
Winona Hope Slater was born on August 29, 2014. My girl, who I know so well now and this makes perfect sense….was going to come out on her own terms. At 10 days post due date, I was induced into labor at 9pm on August 26, 2014. I can talk about my labor experience ad nauseam….but I won’t. I will have you note that I was induced on August 26 and she came out on August 29. Three days later. Girl…
I’ve always known that I would be a mom. It’s something that I desperately wanted as a part of my life. But, slowly the reality that “holy shit, I’m a MOM”, started to take a strange toll. The deep, dark skeleton that I omitted from my first 1000 words was the crippling depression that was the catalyst for every rebellious act. It was the guilt ridden anxiety that people would find out just how very flawed I am that caused me to work extra hard to prove what a “with it”, “put together”, driven woman I am. Depression sucks no matter when it strikes. But, let me tell you when you can cope by sleeping the days away and maybe coming up for air for a dominos pizza with a side of cinnastix (don’t judge….they’re truly junk food nectar)….at least that’s something. When you have a kid. Good luck, sleeping! Let alone sleeping the days away….
I cracked. Not only was I running a small business…but I decided to GROW the business. Not only did I decide to GROW the business. I decided I had to jump back into my acting career NOW. So I did. I auditioned furiously and booked all of the shows I auditioned for one breast milk soaked fall day. I took the jobs. Had panic attacks in my car. Wept in the bathroom. Questioned every decision I’d ever made. Took Zoloft. Took Xanax. Ran out of Xanax. Wondered if I still knew people who could get me Xanax. Smiled and joked and made it seem easy to everyone around me.
If the first year of my daughter’s life was a dizzying mania fueled quest to outwit my ol’ pal depression, the second year of my daughter’s life was when me and my ol’ pal became best friends. The quiet, loneliness descended. The crushing claustrophobia of it was unbearable and I tried to feel better. I ate good food. I ate bad food (about sixty pounds of food if anyone is counting). I started going to therapy. That helped. I started recounting happy moments from my day, every day, with my girl when I put her to bed. That helped. I tried to forgive myself. I tried to cut myself a little slack. That helped. I began taking an arsenal of homeopathic herbs and spices to ease my aching joints and brain. That helped. I looked my ol’ pal in the face and realized for the first time, “you are me. So where do we go from here?”
I’m a few weeks in to the third year of my daughter’s life and I haven’t quite reached the happy ending part. I look in the mirror and I do not know who this woman is. What I do know? I ain’t no put together woman. And I’m far from superwoman. But I am a good mom who loves her daughter ferociously, a goddess warrior wife who loves her husband fearlessly, a hardworking friend, an inspiration to some, a terrific actor in moments, with impressive drive and some wisdom. Hear me roar.
Now who has some Xanax?