I have this thing where I can't fall asleep on my back because I'm convinced that resting peacefully in a perfect lower-me-into-a-coffin position means I'll die. Surely, it's just too convenient for me not to. On the rare occasion when I do decide it's okay to tempt fate, I shove my hands down my pants because certainly, certainly, the Universe couldn't be cruel enough to strike a girl dead with her hands down her pants. Can it?
Before bed, I once had a guy look over and ask why my fingers were shoved in my underwear like a creep-o extraordinaire. We'd made a platonic pact, and here I was putting half my arm where the sun don't shine.
"I won't die in my sleep with my hands down my pants," I explained simply, years of the fear-induced recording embedded like gospel.
He blinked a couple times. "If you're going to die, you're going to die, and then the paramedics will find you with your hands down your pants."
I'm not sure if you guys know this, but being awesome is pretty fucking terrifying. There are so many things I consciously want to do. I can think about them, and get excited, but then when it comes time to do it, I just freak the fuck out. There's no poetic way to put it; it just is what it is. I can't pinpoint exactly when I became so scared of everything: driving on the highway, dying my hair a noticeable color, walking through malls on my own. But I have become that terrified person. And I hate it.
On an intellectual level, I can acknowledge how absolutely trivial and goofy those things sound. However, I still get physically terrified, causing me to avoid uncomfortable situations at nearly ALL COSTS. My pulse quickens and there's a tightness in my chest that I always think means I'm having a heart attack but actually means that I've forgotten to breathe upon merging into traffic from an on-ramp. Of course, the OH-MY-GOD-WHY-AM-I-HAVING-A-HEART-ATTACK feeling doesn't do much to dispel the anxiety, either. That's mostly when the crying starts.
Ultimately, the overwhelming, gut-wrenching fear has been such a huge part of my life for so long that I've forgotten about the version of me who isn't scared of everything. The version who performed onstage, single-handedly directed plays in college, loved going to movies alone, dyed her hair hot pink, laughed too loudly at restaurants, and generally lived.
The other day, Shmoyfriend said he really wanted to go to the aquarium, then sheepishly added that he knows I don't like it.
"I don't?" I asked, genuinely curious.
"You said the giant room with the sharks makes you feel uneasy," he replied, an automatic response to years of me hedging around things that make my pulse race just a little too fast.
And then it hit me. My anxiety has become such a huge presence in my life that not only do I avoid situations that make me uncomfortable, but other people have to steer us around adventures to avoid a bout of anxiousness surrounding things that, logically, pose no actual threat.
When he articulated it so plainly, it highlighted just how wastefully I've been living. Or not living, actually. I mean, I love the aquarium. I'm going to go to the fucking aquarium. By giving myself permission to avoid the things that may make me feel uneasy, I've been giving them power over who I am and what I do. And to me, that seems pretty stinkin' stupid.
So now, I'm allowing myself to be brave. Once a month, I'm going to do at least one thing that makes me oh-so-very panicky in the hopes the huge wall of hyperbolic anxiety will finally let me through.
I'm not entirely sure what all of these will be yet. I'll have to see where the biggest sources of my anxiety rest, and move forward from there, systematically isolating and tackling them. However, I do know that for January I'll be going to a mixer for creative types where I'll know almost no one. I'll be presenting myself as a member of their tribe, truly branding myself as a person with something worthwhile to give, and to share, and to offer. This is a huge step. I'm going to come out of the safe little shadowy boxes I've so artfully crammed myself into, and moreover, I'm going to come out of them in new lipstick.
After nearly 24 years of dealing with this bullshit, I'm ready to lace up my tennis shoes, slam my apartment door behind me, and kick Fear in the nards. 2013, bitches.
I went to the aquarium!
|Lumpfish. True story.|
|[Insert Jaws theme song.]|
|"Hairy Otter" is a pretty decent name for vagina. Just sayin'.|