This Super Cool Thing Where Everything Gives Me Anxiety
Constance Ann Fitzgerald
As a kid, I remember watching the Fox edition of Tales from the Crypt, home alone in our shitty rundown apartment. I don’t remember what episode it was, but I remember freaking myself out looking out the sliding glass door on to the dark balcony.
It was dark and all I could see was our shitty dumpster-dived furniture reflected in the glass. I convinced myself there was something out there watching me, and I couldn’t see it.
I remember crying and wandering around our small cluttered living room waiting for someone to come home. I paced our thin, stained carpet. I sat down in the hall, which was so small it was really just a square of carpet between rooms outside the bathroom door, because it felt safe. Because I felt hidden. But it didn’t last.
I don’t know who came home first, my mother or my sister. I don’t remember if I calmed down before they arrived.
This is likely where I taught myself how to talk myself down off the ledge of anxiety. It’s a skill I’ve developed over the years. It isn’t 100% effective, but it dulls the buzzing of the bees in my chest most of the time.
I check in.
What’s going on?
No. What’s really going on?
Am I breathing? Breathe more.
Have some water. Always have some water.
The act of swallowing water makes it more difficult to cry, so when I feel panicked, when I feel that lump rise from my stomach, into my chest, and lock in my throat, I take several gulps of water. Or tea. Or coffee.
Because I don’t drink whisky anymore. It never solved anything like I thought it would. But I always thought it would.
Before I started drinking I would pace and cry and rant and call friends on the phone and scrawl in my journal. I’d purge.
When I was 20 drinking was just easier. I didn’t have to feel things that plagued me. I could drown the bees in my chest with vodka, rum, and beer until I threw it all up.
Anxiety, alcohol, bees.
But then I’d have to start the process over.
When I finally decided to quit drinking I had anxiety about being alone. About my friends not being my friends anymore because I’d seen that happen to other sober people. I wanted to hang on to those people because I didn’t want to be alone or start over or admit there was a problem, like alcoholism.
The anxiety fell away as did my friendships. But I accepted it and started reading, working on projects, writing, making zines, enjoying life without waking up and going to bed throwing up.
I still smoked marijuana, so I could stay in my bedroom for days and be perfectly entertained until I felt like it was becoming another crutch.
I tried to utilize it as a sleep aid or a “treat” but moderation has never been my thing. That didn’t work.
I moved to a different state. I was out of my body for the two weeks leading up to the move and for a full month after. None of it felt real.
I told myself not to have expectations because they are seldom met, but just couldn’t help myself.
When people would invite me to go do things I would have a full existential crisis about how to get there, how to get home, who would be there, would they be nice? Would they be put off by my sobriety? Around drunk-thirty when my tolerance for drunkards has waned, how will I escape?
How will I escape?
It got to be where smoking pot caused my anxiety. No matter the strain or dosage, the bees filled my chest and the buzzing filled my head with questions, doubt and finely tuned self-deprecation.
So, I quit that too. For a few months I found it difficult to get to and stay asleep. Like everything else in life/that I gave up, I adjusted.
Panic attack in the shower first thing in the morning for no reason. I don’t want to go to my soul sucking job. Did I sound shitty when I said that? What if that person misunderstood me/my tone and now they hate me or I’m in trouble? If they look me directly in the eye they’ll know exactly what I’m thinking/feeling so better avoid that. Am I doing any of this right? Am I a writer? Am I cut out to do any of the actual work? Is this it? Am I where I am supposed to be? Should I have said more? I’m not organized as I should be. I’m not on deadline. I’m fucking it all up.
And on and on all the time every day.
Cry, take a nap, drink some water, make a therapy appointment. And breathe.
Deep. Over and over again. Remind myself that it’s always been this way, I just used to hide from it under a blanket of sedatives.
It’s always been this way and I’ve lived this long.
I’ve been going this long, and I’m just fine.
Constance Ann Fitzgerald is the editor/curator of Ladybox Books, a zine maker, and author of the bizarro novella Trashland A Go-Go. She grew up in central Arizona and has spent the last decade crawling northwest. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon where her happiness is wholly contingent upon whether or not there is a dog in the room.