I think that most people who know me don’t think of me as an anxious person. I try not to come across like a jittery little dog who is always cold and scared of things like flip flops and opening soda cans, but I have my moments. I usually am able to pass off my anxiety as shyness, and I do a pretty good job. I always make sure to tell people up front that I’m a shy person and it takes a little while for me to come out of my shell. The truth is, I’m usually shaking in my boots when I’m around new people (which is why moving to Chicago was such an adventure) and I’m a nervous ball of energy inside. On the outside, I’ve learned that a scowl and arched shoulders keeps stranger danger away (see also, what I look like in every bar I’ve ever been in until sufficient shots have been had).
Aside from the mean mugging and hunched appearance, there are a few, but one that stands out, manifestations of my anxiety. I become a raging bitch. Ok, maybe raging is the wrong word, but a hefty dose of mean comes flowing forth from my gaping maw when anxious and forced into speaking. I’ve always had a knack for placing just the right insult at the right time my entire life. So much so, that my cousins would warn me in highschool that my mouth had run away with itself and someone was threatening to beat me up (apparently bullies don’t like being outsmarted or insulted, my bad). Luckily, that never happened, but my mouth continues to run rampant without discourse on more than one occasion to this day.
I try not to let my anxiety affect me too much, and I push through it and socialize and meet new people (slowly, very very slowly). Once in a while, it gets the better of me, like when I can’t bring myself to meet a new guy, so I just never set a date for dinner or coffee, or the time I ended up in the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack.
In May 2012, I was working on launching a phone/web app for my firm and supervising all the content and design with a hard deadline quickly approaching. The app would also be launching to all the partners in the firm and be a tool for them to get to know each other and other areas of the firm better. So, it was kind of a big deal. Also a big deal, the fact that I had what felt like heart burn, which was not fun, for like four days. On day 5, I thought, maybe I’d had a heart attack or had some sort of blockage, so, I went and had an intense cardio session to get the blood really pumping and move that blockage elsewhere (yes, I know that’s probably not the best idea, but in my defense…it made sense at the time). The cardio did not help. So, while contemplating my life and chatting with my wife online, my left arm started to go numb…not a good sign. She told me to go to the ER, I said I had meetings and I’d go later, to which she said she would basically call 911 for me if I didn’t go myself and the meetings wouldn’t matter if I was dead. I went to the ER. Luckily, it was nothing, they said I was perfectly healthy and it was an anxiety attack. I was to go home, rest and fill a prescription for some heavy antacids cause it really was heartburn, and anxiety (nothing a day off work, a few episodes of The Nanny, and some fried chicken couldn’t help).
See, sometimes it gets the best of you, err, me. Luckily in my old age, I tend to care a little less about some things, but sometimes I forget what I’m supposed to be anxious about. Like the other night, I was laying in bed, not much on my mind other than “I wonder when the oven elves are going to clean out the leftover Pyrex glass, hopefully before I move.” When out of nowhere, I was in the throws of a mini anxiety attack. My heart was racing, I was worried and a little shaken. The problem is, I couldn’t figure out what I was anxious about, which of course, caused me to be anxious that I was forgetting something. This is the problem with being a hypochondriac with a bad memory and anxiety. You’re constantly looping around to new things to be anxious about but forgetting what they are, so you end up straining to remember and working yourself up. It’s exhausting. Makes me wish I stress exercised instead of stress ate.
Luckily, I’m starting to get over my anxious bumbling and freak outs (sometimes with the help of a little pill, it did come from the Dr.), at least I think I am. I’m really just learning, and fine tuning, which situations set off the anxiety and what I can do to mitigate it. I’m sure my Dr. would never recommend alcohol, but I’m not gonna lie, a shot of jager chased with whiskey rocks a couple times usually brings my shoulders down away from my ears and lets a smile creep onto my face. Which is always a good sign. Three of that drink combination and I’m dancing to whatever is on the radio or is stuck in my head. Four of them and whoever I’m with is going to be babysitting, not cute.
So when someone invites me to a party (you know who you are) and I politely decline, I hope they know that it’s not personal and that I do want to meet their friends, I just don’t want to be a drunken mess in order to do it. Plus, the Golden Girls always great company.