Let’s talk about fear.
Fear is a necessary part of life. It protects us from poisonous animals, falling from great heights and being in that serial killer documentary as a victim.
However, fear can also be debilitating. It keeps us from flying across the world, feeling the exuberance of a roller coaster or from delivering a once in a lifetime speech to a crowd.
However, few fears rule our hearts like the snake that is anxiety and social expectations. Sure, the occasional bout of anxiety is simply part of life. Whether it’s a test that’s coming up, a work presentation or simply bad traffic, feeling nervous is simply a part of who we all are. I truly wish my anxiousness was limited to butterflies in my stomach before a big decision.
I suffer from generalized anxiety disoder. I have a myriad of symptoms that I must juggle on a daily and let’s face it, hourly basis. I am easily exhausted from simply being an public, my muscles ache from all the unrelieved tension, intrusive thoughts of worry plague my mind and there are nights when I cannot sleep. It took me several years and being misdiagnosed twice before I got the help I so desperately needed. This isn’t about my eureka moment in the doctor’s office. This isn’t about taking medicine for a panic attack and feeling relief instead of terror.
This is about stigma, a terrible friend and the incredible feeling of saying “fuck it.”
In 2015, I was freshly out of the closet. I had ended a marriage and began going back to college and by this point it was only May. I had dated a woman, B, off and on for a period of time, but the relationship had never materialized. In frustration, I downloaded a dating app and ended up meeting an incredible woman from Florida. She was the type of person that simply puts you at ease. There was a calm about her I had yet to encounter in my life and I was quite fascinated. Previous engagements meant that on a very humid night in late May, she was visiting Tampa and I was missing her. We can call her L. In an effort to distract myself, I went out with my best friend of two decades to a popular chain restaurant that wants their ribs back, baby.
I waxed poetic (oh look, there is a use for that phrase!) for hours, we had some adult beverages and it was closing time. No, Semisonic was not playing. The aforementioned non-relationship candidate worked as a server at this restaurant and invited my bestie and I back to her house to watch a movie. Driving there, I discussed the calm about my Florida sunshine and marveled.
Now, time for the real fun! Awkwardness, name calling and dread. You’ve been warned. Now, continue reading…
We ended up watching the classic, The Sandlot. As the evening is wearing on, we are offered adult beverages. Bestie takes one. I decline. So, the scene is set with adults watching a child’s baseball movie and drinking. I later decide I want a jello shot. No big deal… I mozy (in the South we walk slowly and mozy) into the kitchen and take one. I’m about to sit back down when I’m asked to bring an entire vodka watermelon from the refrigerator for the roommate of my friend, B. I respond by stating I had previously offered to bring anyone anything and no one opted in, so the answer is no.
B’s roommate called me a petty bitch.
The room got very, very quiet. Bestie is at a loss and with her own anxiety, is mute. I look to B, thinking there’s a shred of decency left, but she simply continues to call me a bitch as well. The roommate is simply staring at me. What do I say? What do I do? There is a sick feeling in my stomach, my knees are weak, my extremities grow cold and I feel my face going red. I am humiliated. It’s then I make an error. I engage the behavior! I write this in horror. I’m yelling in this woman’s living room while a baseball movie is paused and I’m feeling disassociative. Then, like the gods of Olympus giving me a break, L calls. I step outside and simply let the flood gates happen. She listens, asking what is wrong. Then, after listening, she tells me the best advice I’d received until that moment.
“Laura, fuck it. Leave.”
I stare at the phone like it’s bewitched. I remember saying “but…” quite often. She continues her point.
Do I really care what B thinks? No…
Do I care what her mannerless roommate thinks? No…
So why was I standing on a front porch, crying, because some people had been mean to me? Why was I still there? The only person who I cared about was the bestie. I walk back inside and told her we were leaving.
No more sick feeling in my stomach.
I had heard from someone who truly cared about my mental well being and who had the benefit of being removed from the situation tell me that my peace of mind was more important that what others thought.
In that moment, the idea was revolutionary.
Hell, it still is.
Sometimes, we are so caught up in the details, we lose ourselves. There are times in our lives that we have our anxiety triggered and it is very difficult to leave. My message to you though — if you are in a situation that is triggering your anxiety and you can leave, GO. Your mental and emotional well-being is more important that continuing to serve a social stigma that benefits no one.
I know anxiety is more complicated than this. I know medications can sometimes be the difference between existing and thriving. I allowed myself to end up in a circumstance I didn’t want to be in because I was trying to be nice. As a woman, I am conditioned to be nice and not upset the status quo. To that… I say fuck the status quo.
Sometimes, we have to let go of our social stigmas to alleviate our anxiety. A friend told me that once and now… now I am the friend telling you.