Anxiety

Recently I watched a movie called Eighth Grade. It was written and directed by Bo Burnham. Now I’m going to talk about him and nothing in relation to the movie. I first heard of Bo trying to watch his standup… which I didn’t really like. I still don’t, if I’m being honest. Sometime later, I saw him on The Green Room with Paul Provenza (which I think anyone with comic appreciation, should watch). I grew some admiration because it’s not easy holding your own in a roomful of veterans. I still didn’t think much of him. It wasn’t until I saw him onscreen in The Big Sick that I got serious about that admiration though, I still can’t explain what changed my mind.

I really enjoyed The Big Sick. I think everyone should watch it. I think Kumail Nanjiani is brilliant. This movie was probably one of the best romantic comedies I’d seen in a long time when I watched it. I still can’t believe I got a chance to tell Kumail in person how much I liked it. 

Back on track.

I have trouble coming to terms with how bad my anxiety can get and how crippling it can be. For years, I tried to hide it from myself. I think part of it was because I didn’t know what was going on with me. It was part of the trauma. Having no one around made it easy to be confused. When I started getting a sense of what was happening, it made me even more scared because I felt like it was making me less of a person than I already felt like. For years, deep down, I just desperately wanted to be cool but I felt like this was a reason even less to be it. It made me feel more like the loser I already felt. I wanted to be cool because I felt so invisible and with the life I grew up with, it made me feel so alone.

I’m only beginning to understand my own anxiety more. Every time I’ve tried to talk about it before, it was always with some sense of crafted conversation. It’s not easy talking about how bad it can get. Even when I have better control over it once I started learning more about it. But I get moments where it’s so hard to breathe. I don’t answer my calls or texts and the longer it goes on, the more I feel that loser feeling and if it goes on too long, it’s so hard to get out of. I start to not be able to function. I can’t focus and I just stay in my room. Sometimes I feel this intense feeling of panic like I’m terrified but I don’t know of what. It’s usually before bed and it’ll keep me from sleeping. I get the same feeling of panic when I try to leave my house after a few days of being too worried about people seeing my anxiety because I can see the physical signs of the weariness when I look in the mirror.

It’s been bad for a while now.

Eighth Grade explains anxiety pretty well. I can relate to that desperation and inside vs. outside and how disconnected it can be. That pressure to want to be seen as cool and the awkwardness that comes with it. The stutters of talking to people that you think are cool and those small smiles of victory when you think you feel it. It gets being a disgruntled teenager pretty well too. Some of the scenes were so painful to watch because I could feel it.

It’s the closest I’ve come to see how relatable it feels to my own anxiety. I even think she does better than me but then I think of moments where I’ve forced myself to do things. I’ve never been able to shake that uncool feeling from myself though. It’s emotionally painful to experience and I can get paralyzed by past embarrassments even though I know deep down, it’s not a big deal. It’s so awkward.

There was another seen that hurt to watch. It was the car scene. I’m going to spoil it:

When he was making her uncomfortable by trying to get her to play Truth or Dare and she didn’t really know how to go about the situation… I felt that. When she’s looking down and away but still trying to “be cool”, it’s how I feel inside when I talk to people. Even just in social situations. But where I really felt it was when she apologized for saying no and how guilty she sounded for rejecting the dare. When he tells her it was for her and how her first time is gonna be stupid or whatever… You can feel the guilt growing on her. When she is crying in her room, I felt it. For me though, I internalize it and that scene and how she’s acting in it is the turmoil I feel on the inside. 

What I felt was more shame though because sometimes I never said no.

This film was the closest thing that I’ve seen in front of me that explains how I feel inside sometimes. In a way, it’s kind of nice that it was anxiety rather than emotional disturbance that I’ve seen in other films.

It’s a lonely way of living and it gets even harder as I get older. As an adult, there’s a part of me that feels like I’m a grown woman, these are problems for teenagers. I’ve learned not to push people away which is a step up from how I used to be. I tend to isolate myself but I’m working on that. I’m still learning to accept help from the right people and being honest with them. I know I’m lucky to even have a couple of people this is possible with. I feel guilty that I have a support system but I can still feel helpless. But I’ve grown as well. I don’t long for affection anymore. Sure, I have anxiety about dying alone or being a spinster for the rest of my life but I don’t force attachment to people anymore. I’ve come to terms with how disappointed and overly anxious it makes me and that it’s best to avoid.

I never thought I’d genuinely stop seeking for meaning in empty places.

How I Started The Year Wrong With Guys And Ended It Right

Oh boy… This is about to get real…

I thought I kicked it off in a good way. I decided not to see the guy I had been sleeping with before he left for Australia. I thought I kicked an old habit of giving in. Instead of thinking of “one last time”, I thought about how rude he’d been to me recently. I thought about the way he told me I wouldn’t get my handholding and Christmas lights with anyone and how much that hurt me. I decided what was best for me and said fuck it to him. Though, I think I drunkenly embarrassed myself before the final nail. But I didn’t fuck him so it’s mostly okay.

Also, I know how bad this is going to sound but… I thought about how shitty his squat form was. I saw a video of it and felt disappointed for all the times we had discussions about lifting. Honestly, every video I’ve seen of him doing lifts felt like I was deceived. It put me off pretty hard. I haven’t crept in awhile so hopefully that’s changed but I’m not interested in knowing.

After him, I thought great! I’ve got this. I can do this.

That lasted until I slept with someone from my gym. He was quite younger but I got a lady boner every time I saw him lift. Unlike the previous guy, this one walked it. His form, his strength and something about him made me horny like every time. All that sexual tension finally came to a result when we had a hot makeout session in his car. Based on that, I thought it would translate in the bedroom.

It did not. Age and experience became apparent. It got even more awkward when we got into a situation where Plan B was involved. I was baffled how he didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. I didn’t know how to react when his explanation was that his ex-girlfriend ate it like candy. I made him go get it and when he came back with it, he tried to leave for the gym. I said fuck no to that and told him this shit is whack and he was going to have to sit through this with me. This was my first time ever dealing with this and I was not going to process this alone.

You’d think it’d end there but it didn’t. We slept together one more time and it was actually pretty sweet. It got weird after that because he couldn’t handle the feels he was getting. I was impatient. It ended with me writing two letters to him because I am an embarrassment to myself.

Next was a guy I met on Tinder who I ended up spending Valentines with. This date ended with him rushing out of my place because he was incapable of dealing with his own emotions. He left behind a bag containing a bunch of condoms and a brand new bottle of Astroglide. It was ambitious of him. That bottle never got used because you should only use water-based lubes. No one likes yeast infections. I threw away the condoms when I got into a relationship.

Which brings me to the next guy.

It was my first relationship since I decided to take a step back and work on myself. Like, really try to work on me. In the beginning, it seemed so promising. He seemed like such a great guy. We seemed to be on the same page, the same level. Our stories seemed similar and I thought he could relate to some of the more hidden sides of me. He had a son but it was okay.

Too bad it was mostly a lie and he turned out to be lowkey garbage. I wasn’t above the bullshit in that brief relationship either. Being with him messed me up some and I’m embarrassed by how I was when we broke up. I’m embarrassed by what my friends had to put up with and how I let my little sister down. It took me a while to stop thinking about him and how fucking deceived I was in that whole thing. I’ve even stopped being mad about the whole thing because that’s not even worth my time. Now I’m above longing for soggy sandwiches, which is what his personality was made up of. I didn’t see it because I was too caught up. It was my first relationship in a long time.

I learned from it though and I’ll never go through that again. I also got to see him for who he was when he came over knowing I wanted to bang one more time. Then he felt guilty about it because now he pretty much had a girlfriend, which he did not mention before he came over (this guy really has trouble being alone) and we did it anyway. I’m not proud of this but after that, I knew I was over him and I’d never turn back. This is still true.

I took a bit of time after this to reflect. I had regressed and it didn’t feel good. But somewhere in there was a growth that I didn’t see right away. I mean, shit still dragged on but there were moments where I established my needs and my boundaries. I was still an idiot in many other ways, don’t get me wrong, but I was also growing.

This got proven in two ways after that.

One was with a British guy I had a brief fling with a few months ago. He was a nice guy but such a dink. Not a dick, but a dink. He was flighty, scattered and had poetry arms. He talked sweetly when he would but the rest was filled with empty words. I didn’t like how he went about things. I also got uncomfortable when he did express shit when I realized how full of shit he was.

The way to sum him up is how he told me he wanted to understand people and not fuck up in relationships anymore. He wanted to “get it”. He knows about The 5 Languages of Love. He has both the hard copy and the Kindle version. He doesn’t know what his language of love is because he’s never even taken the test. He didn’t even tell me this. I called it out of him when he kept avoiding answering when I asked him what it was.

The last time I saw him I was really drunk. I was trying to accommodate his wanting to be a “nice guy”. Except I couldn’t because I’m an idiot when I drink. I haven’t learned how to control my tendency to get overly affectionate and handsy with guys that I’ve been or am attracted to. I still haven’t. It can get so awkward when it happens. I’ve definitely progressed from embarrassing drunk calls but this is still not chill. It’s happened a few times and when I’ve sobered up, I am put off by myself. With this guy, I text him that I didn’t want to be friends and we should just leave this done. Then I blocked him. His accent wasn’t even sexy, ugh. That day I realized I am done forever with Tinder and casually hooking up with strangers.

To control myself from my drunk idiot self, I stay away from guys I have or would have this tendency with. I still haven’t learned to not be dumb about this. 

The other, at my very sad birthday gathering, where only two (three counting my friend who worked there) showed up, I got to experience something new. One of the people who showed up was someone I was happy to see but wasn’t expecting to show up. I had invited him a couple of days before just casually. He stayed during the whole thing and even paid for me because it was my birthday. At the end of the night, he became the target of my drunk tendency and we held hands. I showed him the powerpoint presentation I made for myself. I ended up inviting him back to my place where I showed him my gratitude journal entry that I wrote every time I see his smile, it brightens my day.

I think there was like a second of intention of hooking up. Instead, what happened was a lot of talking, getting to know each other and cuddling. It was super chill. The next morning was more talking and cuddles. He didn’t just get up and leave. Instead, we went for brunch. That night, he text me that he had a good time and liked hanging out with me. It made me smile.

It got weird after that. I think we were both into each other but not sure what to do about it because I think we both knew it wasn’t going to become anything. I liked how we hung out and I wanted to keep it going the way it did that night. I think he wasn’t used to it even though he pretended to be. I think he wanted something like that too but got in his own head and then got earnest about it. It showed the last time we hung out and so did my drunken tendency.

I wasn’t disappointed though. I didn’t want to be either. He’s a genuinely lovely guy but I realized we should just leave it at how we originally know each other. He’s a few years younger and still trying to figure things out for himself. He’s a sweet guy but we’re not at the same point to handle the same situation. I know it might sound mean but, I didn’t want to be just friends who hang out once in a while. I had no interest in that. I haven’t seen him since that night but I wouldn’t treat things any differently when I see him again at our mutual spot. I hope he doesn’t either. It’s nice to realize in the end, I prefer our harmless flirting and we handled it maturely in a weird way.

Which brings me to where I ended right.

During the last two guys, I started sleeping with a guy I’ve been familiar with for months. I never knew if he was single or not. When I found out he was and even before, I kept trying to get the courage to exchange numbers. I never did get the courage. I chickened out every time or when I did find the nerves, it’d be weeks before we’d bump into each other again.

Call the stars aligned because we ended up matching on Tinder shortly before I decided to delete it forever. I’m actually glad it worked out this way because it takes away the awkwardness of what was happening before. He ended up staying over that night, which I liked. He’s more affectionate than I thought. The cuddles are super great. We get on pretty well.

I almost ended things to see what would happen with the British guy. Actually, I did. Two days later, I had a feeling in my gut that I was making a mistake so I went with it. I realized it would be way more fun with this guy. When I went to undo it, he was down. He was even nice enough to make sure I was actually okay with this because he didn’t want to wreck no homes. I was sure. I was definitely sure.

It’s lasting longer than I thought it would. It’s the most sound anything I’ve been involved with. Not just this year, but in a long, long time. For how casual it is, there’s an appropriate amount of respect and what I get from it is enough. We’re mostly on the same page. It’s not always one-sided. There’s a level of honesty that I appreciate and I think it comes from somewhat knowing each other. We’re both detached in our own ways but we’re not dicks about it and I’m into that.

He has no interest in me as a girlfriend but he’s not rude about it. There was a moment of awkwardness when he invited me to a party of his and I ended up blacking out. I didn’t understand what was weird about it until he started being weird after. Eventually, it came out that I got into my drunk tendency at the party. I took it one step further apparently because I told him I wanted to date him; which is not true. I felt like a twit when he told me and it was even more embarrassing because I went along to dim sum with him and his roommates and their friend without knowing I did this. I also tried to tell him where I was at about the whole thing when he dropped me off (and it had nothing to do with us dating). But we talked about, in person, and it was weird but we clarified things with each other. I also decided that it’s best to leave our hangouts by ourselves.

I like how chill it is though. I like that if I have an issue, I can talk about it. I don’t have that general anxiety I usually have and I don’t find myself overly fussing. I also don’t feel like I have to pretend anything which is a really nice change of pace. He makes time when he can and I can be honest about when I’m in a bad mood and want to be alone. There are also times when I’m not straight up about it but it’s super obvious and he understands and laughs about it. The sleepovers don’t happen as often as I’d like but it doesn’t bother me. I just like when they do. I like that we had brunch once. I like that when he comes over, either I have a beer ready for him or he brings one to share. I also like that it doesn’t get weird when we see each other at our mutual spot and it’s like how it’s always been.

Honestly, I just like how lowkey mature this situation is even though we’re not very mature people. He’s also got good vibes so I don’t question his character. I think there’d be no hard feelings when it ends though there might be disappointment from my end if it happened. He’s easy going and I’m crusty but it still works. For what it is, it’s more grown-up than the other shit I’ve dealt with. If this wasn’t still going on, I’d be content with nothing going on.

 

 

I’m Not Gonna Lessen Myself So That You Can Live Some Fake Reality

 

Keep an open energy and your answer comes. It’s real. Get at it.

I was talking to a friend just before I started this episode. I’ve been having trouble writing properly. My words were coming out in jots. I couldn’t piece everything together to make it coherent. I was on the phone trying to figure out solutions with my friend. Even when I was trying to explain it to him it wasn’t coming out right. He understood because we’re good friends like that but for writing, it doesn’t help.

Then Miss Bruce gave it to me.

Those two panels made me realize that’s what I’d been doing. That’s what I’ve grown from. I’ve spent a long ass time learning to love myself. I’ve loved others more than I’d love myself. I took away love for myself to love someone else. I lessened myself to give someone a fake ass reality of theirs. But it’s not like that no more. And these are the words I’ve been trying to find.

I’ve been figuring out a way to express that it’s safe to say that I no longer have a penchant for douchebags. I don’t embarrass myself for someone who makes me feel embarrassed anymore. I’m firm in the attitude I have about it. I’ve become more self-orientated and it doesn’t falter like it used to. I’m also totally okay with throwing up that thanks to many of the guys I’ve dealt with this year… I’ve learned not all bitches are women.

Fake realities. That’s what I kept lessening myself for. I did this even though I wasn’t getting much. So people could feel better about themselves. I told myself I could fill in the blanks so it’d be easier. I’ve learned I shouldn’t have to do that in the first place. I look back on this shit with embarrassment and I think it’s a good thing. It means I recognize bullshit now and it means I’ll catch it in the future without getting too far into things like I used to. I don’t want people who live like this to be a part of my life.

What do I mean by this exactly? The guys who oversell and painfully under deliver and expected me to buy their bullshit. The ones who can talk a lot of shit but barely be able to take it. The ones who thought dangling affection in front of me like I was supposed to beg for it. Who expected patience from me while rushing me when they felt like it. The ones who refused to change their shitty attitudes because “that’s just the way they are”. The ones who felt entitled to fuck me while playing it cute or going straight vulgar. They’ll do anything to keep their fake ass realities so that they don’t to put in the efforts.

It’s gross and it’s lazy. I can’t believe I catered to this bullshit so many times. I wasted my time. It’s embarrassing. But it’s over. I’m not here to hype up soggy ass people anymore. Stay in your own lane and I’ll happily stay in mine.

Those two panels is the promise I’m making to myself to keep in 2019.

 

Complex Trauma Is A Tricky Thing

I hate the word triggered. I think it mostly has to do with rolling my eyes at most of the people and articles who use that word. There’s a preciousness that is implied. There’s a tone of victimizing. There’s a mandatory level of sensitivity because to them, they’re entitled to it. I think that’s what bugs me. The entitlement. Instead of caring, I find myself thinking, sit down. Sometimes shut up. Then I question my level of compassion.

But what happens when it is the definition of what’s been happening to me? Is the joke on me? My body remembers trauma better than my mind can place it. I get paralyzed from speaking rather than stronger for trying to. Sometimes it feels like something about me has been so damaged but it’s not visible. I only suspect this because I’ve been known to punish myself physically in the past for standing by my own convictions. Whether it was through self-harm or binge-eating until it showed and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. My body understands punishment better than it does self-care.

It’s easy to internalize. To just keep sweeping and compacting everything inside. You can just pretend until you can’t pretend anymore. Because you don’t want to tell people the truth. You can barely tell it to yourself because you think it’s dumb. You’re dismissive of your own reaction to triggers.

Let’s get honest. You’re ashamed. You’re ashamed that you stood up for your own convictions and that has landed in you a shitty spot. Instead of being right back from it, you shut down as a person for almost two weeks. You’re anxious. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe. It gets harder every day to leave your house because there’s a fear in you. Sometimes, multiple times, you’ll wake up suddenly from your sleep. Like you would from a nightmare. Except you can’t remember what it is about. You hate yourself for these things. You don’t really want to talk to anyone about this so you ignore most of your phone calls and texts. Shit, you don’t even look at your phone because if you don’t see, you can’t answer.

Complex trauma is a tricky thing though.

There’s not one thing to pinpoint it to. You don’t even know how to express your own feelings about it. You’re fucking delicate when you don’t want to be. Sometimes it feels like you’re walking around with your hands tied behind your back and you’re walking around blindfolded. Eventually, the blindfold falls off and fuck me, you now see that you’ve been wandering around in a thick fog. Your hands are still tied but at least you can see. Maybe you can find something to try to cut them off against. You’re scared but you’re trying to be brave. You have resilience but you fight with the fact that you let yourself get in this position in the first place. Could you have helped it?

I’m starting to understand that thinking this way is not normal. It makes me feel like an outcast. Maybe it’s because of my underlining fear of rejection. Or my experiences with betrayal and abandonment. The shame gets real. The shame gets even more real when my body feels it before my mind can catch up with it. I can admit this freely through typing on a laptop. I’m in hiding. But to say these words to someone, in person, would result in a lump in my throat and if I can get past even that, a waterfall of tears. Years of gaslighting from those close to me have resulted in a broken trust in myself. I often question the validity of my own thoughts and feelings. I’m getting better at recognizing this though.

I don’t have the nerves to call a friend over to let me curl on their lap and have them stroke my hair. It’s another day in the dark but I’m getting better at talking about it.

 

 

Where Do I Go From Here?

There’s a developing level of vulnerability that I’m starting to accept. It hasn’t really been easy to navigate but it also feels absolutely necessary.

I’m beginning to recognize that when I start getting uncomfortable from my social anxiety, instead of trying to connect, I end up embarrassing myself. I haven’t quite decided if it’s something I can work on or it’s just a part that’s me. I guess it’ll come down to the ability to be able to separate myself from it. My anxiety sometimes causes me to shut down instead of show up because I become somewhat paralyzed about what move I should be making and then I don’t end up doing anything. There used to be days, even weeks, where I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) leave my home and the longer that went on, the more I convinced myself that once I stepped out into the world, everyone would know. I would deflect my anxiety by pretending to myself, “Haha, I’m okay. Things are okay. Nothing is wrong. Don’t let people see your weakness. Haha, it’s okay. I’m fine. I just want people to think I’m cool and it’s not cool to be anxious. Knock it off, Fish.

It was exhausting.

It’s more manageable these days but fuck, I’m still intimidated when I get socially anxious. Like, it can feel sure people can sniff the anxiety out of me and be like, k, you loser and I’d be like, yeah you’re right. People don’t really respect you much when this shit is apparent as well. There have been times I would feel so uncomfortable wondering if people could sense how hard I was trying to just be social. I felt like I was being a phony not being able to do it so … easily? I just wanted to be accepted but my anxiety shield kept me on edge a lot. It still does sometimes. I get in my own head about whether or not people wanted to be my friend when I wanted them to be mine.

I’ve always kind of felt like, I was friendly enough for people to chat with, maybe, but not enough to like, establish a friendship with. I’ve also had to come to terms with my efforts as well. I have a hard time understanding how to call someone to just hang out or plan an outing with my friends. I haven’t practice that sort of thing enough because I start getting anxious about the rejection of trying. I haven’t learned to surf the waves of it yet but I’m hoping to get the hang of it. Right now, I think I’m still crashing down.

Truth is, I’ve always wanted to be seen as a person but then I ask myself is this allowed? Also, when you’ve spent most of your life mostly hiding from people while desperately wanting to be cool, you’re just mostly invisible. When you mostly just make an impression of embarrassment (which I’m really good at), it doesn’t make you come off as someone people want to know. At least that’s what I end up telling myself when I’m alone and reflect with cringes.

So where do I go from here?

I don’t really have an answer. But I think the answer lies in just keeping on. Keep writing out these anxieties so that maybe I’ll be able to own them so they own me less. Maybe I’ll stop worrying about how much of a loser I might be coming off as. That’s how I feel when I write about this shit. Maybe eventually that feeling will stop. Since I’ve been putting my shit out there more honestly, I feel less shackled even though the feelings still come. They don’t come as strongly.

And that’s probably a good thing.