I do this thing where I worry. I have always been this way. When I tell you I don’t remember a second of my life when I wasn’t afraid, that’s not hyperbole. My parents used to have to hide the newspapers from me when I was a child because I would read about diseases and convince myself I had them. You’ve only heard me tell this story when I’m drunk and my guard drops off - no one cares how young I was when I learned to read.
I did this thing, when I was a kid, where I would explode over the slightest things. Crying on the seesaw because it was too high, screaming at the bullies when they went too far, weeping in the lunchroom over a solo I didn’t get. I was told that these behaviors were wrong and bad. I heard “loose cannon” and “melodramatic” and “high strung” a lot. I learned to shut up about it, but it took me a long time. Now when I am upset, I am like oatmeal on a stove, bubbling up under the lid until it explodes around the edges and gets everywhere, burns onto the counter, impossible to wash away. I see people’s faces when I behave this way, I see how uncomfortable they are. They don’t know how many times I didn’t explode, they don’t know how much heat I contain. I am a very good girl now. I understand everyone’s perspectives. I do not shout. I do not ask questions. I don’t express my disappointments. Bullshit, you’re thinking, you do that all the time. Bullshit I retort, you have no idea how much I’m not saying. No one cares how upset I am over nothing.
I did this thing, in my early twenties, where if I gained a half a pound or a centimeter around my waist I would slap my own wrist until it bruised. I hate blood, so cutting was out of the question, but I hate myself too so something Needed To Be Done. If you knew me in my twenties you were unaware of this, I literally never told anyone. Maybe people noticed, but no one ever asked, so to the best of my knowledge my arsenal of long-sleeved cardigans was fully effective. I don’t mention it now because I don’t do it anymore, which means it can’t have been that bad, if I could get over it on my own. No one cares about my half-assed eating disorder.
I do this thing where I fixate. I decide that something is true, or soon will be, a friend will leave me, a job will fall through, I am sick and dying and unaware of it. I can’t stop thinking about it, I can’t push it from my mind, I need constant noise and distraction to make it go away. When I go to bed I put on YouTube, when I wake up I put on podcasts, I need other people’s voices, I need literally anything other than the sound of my own voice inside my head. I don’t want to tell anyone, particularly the people I am afraid are leaving me, because this is not their responsibility. I know these fears are in my head, I know it, so I don’t tell people I have them because I should be able to handle it on my own. The people I love deserve better than a friend who is constantly begging for reassurance.
But the longer the fears stay trapped in my head, the more they rattle around in there with no place to go the harder it becomes to separate facts from reality. Then I become frightened that my thoughts will affect the people around me, that I need to do a better job of hiding them because no one likes a person who is a constant open wound of fucking need. So I get weird, and I pull back and then push forward, I cry at strange intervals, I make promises and break them. It gets very, very bad. I am constantly exhausted. I stop eating. You’re so skinny, they say. I’m malnourished, I think. Hey, at least I’m finally skinny, right?
I do this thing, when I start to bottom out, where I wake myself up in the middle of the night into fear. It’s like my body relaxes, but my mind remembers that I have literally never been relaxed, so this can’t be right DON’T FORGET YOU DIDN’T HEAR BACK FROM NAME REDACTED DON’T FORGET YOUR BOSS HATES YOU DON’T FORGET YOU SAID THAT THING WHEN YOU WERE DRUNK DON’T FORGET YOU’VE AGED OUT OF MOST OF YOUR DREAMS. I jolt awake and lay in bed, half conscious, sick with worry until dawn.
I did this thing last night where, desperate for a different choice to make, I sat down a good friend and asked him if I could just say my irrational fears at him. I figured at the very least, as I’m spiralling out, as I have been for weeks, if I start getting weird (weirder?) he’ll have some context for what’s going on. At the very least I can erase the meta-layer of anxiety where I think I need to pretend I’m not anxious. He said yes, because of course he did, because I’m not actually fooling anyone when I try to tamp down on this shit. He already knew everything I told him. I told him I’d probably wake up this morning convinced that I had been a burden and that he’d never speak to me again. Guess how I spent my day?
I do this thing where I prepare monologues, write letters I don’t send, speak to myself in the mirror about problems I made up on my own, then decide I can’t possibly say that. I don’t want to worry anyone, I don’t want anyone to feel inconvenienced by me, and this is clearly all my fault anyway. I don’t want to see the looks on people’s faces when I react too strongly or feel too much. But I’m beginning to wonder if I’m not making things so much worse by waiting to boil over. So basically what I’m saying is, I’m going to do this thing where I try to correct my overcorrection. I just figure there has to be has some middle ground between shrieking sixth grader and emotionally repressed 30 something. This area is under construction. Please excuse my dust.