When I was younger, I remember being told that “kids my age” always assume they’ll live forever. I never thought this applied to me, but looking back I can see that I was a bit of a risk-taker. I booked a flight to the most dangerous city in the world, backpacked in Asia by myself, and lived in a squat built atop a Superfund waste site. None of this ever seemed all that risky to me, at least not in a way that gave me anxiety—in fact, I’m not sure I really believed in anxiety before I started working at the psych ward, though my psychotic ex-boyfriend also gave me a proper introduction.
Don’t judge my ignorance. I grew up in a world where gay people are supposedly cured by therapists and antidepressants are for people who don’t know how to deal with their problems and/or pray hard enough. I’ve since begun using my brain and interacting with a variety of humans, so my feelings have changed. And so has my propensity to become anxious. I refuse to accept the blame for this. In fact, I think it’s YOUR fault. Reading everyone else’s fears and anxieties is, in fact, causing me to acquire them. This shite is more contagious than Ebola.
I AM GOING TO CHOKE ON YOUR FINGER
I went to the dentist last week, and not for the first time in my life. I’ve got the routine down: They chide you for not flossing, you make a promise to start immediately, etc. etc. But something was different this time. The doctor came in and my mind immediately began racing.
“A booger is going to fall out of his nose and into my mouth, I just know it. OH MY GOD I can see it dangling there.”
Little metal tools were piling up on my chest, laid out on the bib they’d tied around my neck so it could capture all my escaped spit and embarrassingly bloody floss.
“How long is he going to have that thing in my mouth? I can feel his individual fingers holding my tongue down. How am I supposed to breathe like this, does he realize what he’s doing? Am I breathing? OH MY GOD when was the last time I took a breath?”
The dental assistant wiped some stray drool from my face and I grunted my appreciation.
“Can they tell I’m nervous? I should lie incredibly still so that I’m like the absolute best dental patient they’ve ever had. I’ll be super impressive. Wait a second, they’re making thousands of dollars off of this. Bastards! I should be the worst patient they’ve ever had, so they really deserve my money. OH MY GOD did my tooth just fall apart? What if the anesthesia wears off and I start feeling this?”
Eventually I got out of there, still very much alive, and with a little sack of tooth-related paraphernalia that I’ll eventually find shoved in the nether regions of my backseat. But it was touch and go there for a minute.
I LOVE YOU, I BET THAT MEANS YOU’RE GOING TO DIE
Alex is the only guy I’ve ever been in love with. And that is super great. Except for the fact that now I’m worried he’s going to die and I’m going to have to figure out how to live my life without him in it. Every single time he leaves the house I scream through the crack in the closing door:
“I love you, don’t run red lights, don’t text while driving, I love you, let me know when you’re home, please don’t die.”
I know I should be like the incredibly inspirational people who are determined to turn their grief into cry-worthy YouTube videos or global social movements, but I’m pretty sure I would just wither up into a dry and brittle shell of myself. I know this for a fact, since I spend significant parts of my day imagining it. Thankfully Alex and I are getting married, which means I will never let him out of my sight until the day we die. What a lucky guy.
THE APOCALYPSE IS COMING AND I DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE A MAP
I like to think I’m the sort of person who would still be alive at the end of a slasher movie. Outwit a murderous clown on a rampage because people teased him in elementary school? No problem. But what about the dystopian movies, where the infrastructure collapses and people have to shoot each other in order to steal antibiotics from pharmacies while running around with duffel bags of orange soda? I would die. Not because I can’t go all Hunger Games over a can of tuna, but because people in those movies are always sneaking their way across the country, navigating on back roads and cutting through the woods. I would die. I can’t even find my doctor’s office and I’ve been going there for the last 17 years. In fact, I don’t even know where my car is parked right now.
What gives YOU anxiety? Do you grow less reckless with age? Do you think you’ll survive the apocalypse?
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