Anxiety is the shoe that never drops, the anticipated alarm that never goes off, the gift in the middle of the night that keeps on giving. Here are a few recent times my anxiety reared its ugly head and painted a reality different than the actual one.
I thought my beard looked like pubes.
I looked in the mirror one day before work, and was suddenly convinced that my beard looked like it was composed entirely of pubic hair. The entire rest of the day when talking to coworkers or clients, I thought that they thought the exact same thing.
I took a bumpy plane ride and got covered in Xanax gravy.
I’ve had a debilitating fear of flying since I had an unusually turbulent flight through the Rockies once. There’s nothing more hilariously disorienting than the adrenaline rush of realizing you left your backpack (containing your keys and wallet) back on your plane, right before your connecting flight, while you’re under the heavy Xanax blanket.
A kind customer service agent took an (ok what the fuck is the car that’s inside an airport that moved people and their luggage around. I just googled like 20 different combinations. IT HAS TO HAVE A NAME. Anyway, she took one of these.) and handed me the backpack *just* as the doors to the jetbridge were being closed.
Taking a second Xanax at this point was not a good idea. I did it anyway. When I woke up in Portland, I noticed something…off. When I got home and took off my coat, my friend Nick who was watching my cat Ned exclaimed “holy shit!” I looked down to see my shirt soaked in perspiration. No, no, not the underarm sweat from exerting oneself, nor the chest spots from a brisk walk. There was more sweat than shirt, and it went all the way to the cuffs of my sleeves, all the way down to my waistline. I was drowning in Xanax-overdose gravy. Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.
I liked a guy too much.
A guy in New Jersey and I had a long distance romance. A week before we met I had an anxiety attack. The romance imploded. We unfollowed each other on social media. Even my cat unfollowed him.
I saw you in public but out of context.
Oh God. It’s my friend who I know from Scruff/Facebook/Instagram. I am The Worst, I can’t remember his name. Why am I so bad at names? He just got on the same crowded bus as me. Maybe if I look really casually out the window he won’t notice. Wait, I can see in my peripheral vision that he saw me. I can tell he is staring at me. Find something outside interesting to look at. Oh! A car honked! That’s good! Wow, that car honking is literally the most interesting thing I have ever seen, I am staring at that honking car like my life depends on it. Wait I bet he’s staring at it too! I can safely glance over his way and look at his face for a minute and see if that jogs my memory on his name- well, fuck. He’s looking right at me. Smile and nod! Okay he smiled and nodded. Whew. That’s over. Oh wait! It’s Dan. His name is Dan. I’m towards the back of the bus, seated, he’s standing near the front. I’ll get off in a little bit when we get downtown. Wait. Oh. So many people got off at the Rose Quarter. So many more people are getting on. Oh God, here he comes, he’s moving back towards me, jesusfuck.
We are both wearing headphones, that’s good. Wait, do I take my headphones out when he gets close by? My ears felt really waxy when I put my earbuds in, what if I pull it out and there’s a huge chunk of wax on them? Ugh. What would we talk about, we’ve never even spoken in person. “Hi, haha you’re less than 250 feet away from me. Get it? Because we know each other from Scruff? Anyway, how’s your boyfriend, is he back from California yet? [because I have chatted with his boyfriend a few times in person] Anyway, isn’t this gorgeous weather?” And then what? Then we just stare at each other for the rest of the bus ride, wondering when we would have permission to wordlessly put the earbuds in again and return to our Spotify playlist or honestly even nothing, if the earbuds weren’t even connected to anything transmitting sound but instead connected to, say, a sandwich in my pocket, they’re still the universal public transit symbol for Please Don’t Talk To Me.
Okay. I’ll pull them out and say hello if he does. Here he is, he’s stopping right next to me, Hi! Hello! my eyes but only my eyes say, I smile, there might even be teeth in that smile, wait my smile is getting bigger, it’s a huge shiteating grin, I did not even know I could smile this large, should facial muscles even do this, wait that was too much smiling, I look like a crazy person, stop smiling. He smiles and nods and does not pull out his earbuds. I am wearing shorts and I move my knees over so as to not graze his beslacked legs with my wispy leg hair, instead BRUSH THE SKIRT OF THE WOMAN SITTING NEXT TO ME WITH MY LEGS.
I quickly retract my legs, they are locked in position precisely centered between Dan’s slacks and the woman’s skirt. I look over to see her reaction, maybe give a silently mouthed “Sorry” but she is looking out the window, over the Willamette river as our bus crosses the Steel Bridge. Did I offend her? Does she perhaps think it was on purpose, that my particular kink is sitting next to women on mass transit and brushing my naked knees against their rayon blend skirts? I think of taking my earbuds out, of saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to brush your Chico’s skirt with my knobby, pale knees. I am a gay! I am harmless to women! I am a feminist, see? I am going to watch Handmaid’s Tale when I get home tonight!” Instead I say nothing.
I look over. Dan’s beslacked buttocks are right next to my head. Suddenly I get a crazy urge to send his boyfriend a text with my face next to his boyfriend’s butt. Maybe I shall give a thumbs-up in the photo? Maybe I shall draw a smiley face on the photo, on his boyfriend’s butt? Why do I want to do this? Is everything okay with me?
The bus trundles into downtown, and now I have a new problem: what if (WHAT IF) I have to get off first? I have a vision of the bus stopping at my stop, me waiting until the last possible second, and then shoving Dan out of the way as I dive for the back door of the bus as it’s swinging shut. As my feet barely manage to clear the doors, I call out to the driver, “Thank youuuuuu…” and I hit the pavement and roll, rolling up to a standing position, the bus erupts into applause as it pulls away.
In real life, the bus stops again, people shuffle on and off, and Dan moves farther back in the bus, now he is sitting down. I realize I have been holding my breath for two minutes and am losing consciousness, so I breathe again. I am finally aware of the song playing, Britney Spear’s “Alien”, it is truly a classic but I listen to it so often I have to set my Spotify to private so that is does not broadcast on social media that it is sometimes the only song I listen to. It is perfection! It’s a intricate ballad about the complexities of feeling alone and unique in world that sometimes does not value those qualities! It intelligently vacillates between heartbreaking insecurity and childlike optimism. It is arguably the best track on 2013’s Britney Jean (maybe, MAYBE “Perfume” WHICH IS COWRITTEN BY SIA but MAYBE NOT).
Okay so now we are pulling up to my stop. It is a popular stop, so half the bus is restlessly gripping the poles to stand up, getting their bags and umbrellas and backpacks ready. Okay, be cool, Mike. Time this out. The bus stops, and like a well rehearsed ballet, I stand up, turn, smile and nod once more at Dan, turn again, and walk out of the bus like a normal human being haha I don’t have occasional debilitating social anxiety at all, see?
I called an alpaca a homophobe.
I literally have nothing else to say. I’ll tell you in person sometime.