Tag Archives: anxiety

The Moth, Star Wars, and Facing my Fears

I hate speaking in public.  I really hate it. If you’ve ever been to one of my readings, you know that I’m usually three or four Ketal One and soda’s in before I can even approach the stage. This is because it terrifies me to climb up there and have everyone looking back at me, expectant when there’s so much room for error. I could die, for example, and piss my pants in front of everyone. The story could fall flat, or in the case of a storytelling event, I could completely black out and forget the story. But, at the same time, I like sharing things that I write in front of people because you get instant feedback on the story. If the audience is supposed to laugh but doesn’t, something needs to be fixed. If they laugh when you wanted to, it’s worth like a decade of validation. You see the conundrum (and how desperate I am for approval. Thanks, dad!).

So, for 2018, I decided that this year would be the year of doing things that scare the shit out of me. My therapist thinks it’s a good idea, too. In our last session, she said something about “cognitive behavioral therapy” and “exposure therapy” and then she called me brave. I smiled and stared at her, wondering what it would be like to curl up in the fetal position on her lap.

Then, things got weird. I went to see the newest Star Wars and out of nowhere, I got super inspired. I mean, I like Star Wars A LOT but I’m not crazy about it. But for some reason, be it the storyline, that badass female character, the cinematography, the acting, something made the hair on my arms stand up. I felt this strange motivation inside of me to just do bigger things. And the next day, I signed up for an acting class at the university. I figured if I can make an ass out of myself in front of strangers on the regular, I can probably get up on stage and tell a story without dying. So far, I’m on week three and every class is terrifying and I get really grossly sweaty just walking in, but I am getting less afraid, week by week, a little bit at a time. Almost everyone in the class is 18 years old. And I was expecting something really terrible, but it turns out that kids nowadays are so much cooler than when I was growing up. They don’t make eyes at each other or tease other kids. They say things like, “as a privileged white woman, I feel that the scene is like this.” And I’m just floored by how smart and aware they all seem to be. You guys, we don’t have anything to worry about. The next generation is going to fix everything.

Also, on January 22, I told a story at a Moth Slam in Park City during Sundance. I spent the week before memorizing my five-minute story obsessively. I must have read it 100 times, but regardless, I couldn’t get it right. The morning of, I saw my therapist and she gave me great advice. She said, “your goal should not be to be perfect, or even good. Your goal is just to show up. That’s it. Anything you do on top of that is a bonus.” On the night of the slam, my husband took me up to Park City and I shook the entire time. My palms were ice cold and I felt like I might shiver out of my own skin. My jaw hurt from being clenched so unbearably tight. We arrived early so we had a drink at Wasatch Brewery, next to Sundance T.V. where the Moth event would be held. That helped slightly. F, my husband, kept trying to talk to me but I couldn’t talk. I concentrated on sipping my wine and holding myself together. We went to the Moth event and I got another glass of wine. And for a minute, I thought, I don’t need to put my name in the hat to tell my story. I showed up. That’s enough. But then I finished most of my glass and thought, fuck it. If I get up there and freeze, I’ll just shrug, go “nope,” and walk off stage. I can laugh about it later. This eased the tension a little. I put my name in the hat and sat down, waiting for the show to start.

The next 10 minutes were a blur:

  • The host of the show took the stage.
  • She pulled out a name. It was me.
  • I stared into lalaland in total disbelief with my mouth wide open for a solid 30 seconds.
  • I somehow made my way to the stage.
  • “Oh, shit, you guys,” was the first thing I said into the Mic.
  • I took a deep breath and started, “I was 13 years old and it was two weeks away from my 14th birthday…” I told my story and shockingly, I told it exactly as I’d gone over it in my head. I didn’t black out. I didn’t vomit. Somehow, my brain showed up for me which felt almost magical considering what an asshole it’s been for the past year.
  • After, I found my way to my seat with adrenaline pumping through my veins which made me feel capable of anything. F gave me a big hug and said, “you did it! And you didn’t die!” And I was glad that neither of us had set the bar very high.

I watched the rest of the show and felt inspired by the other storytellers. The slam was two weeks ago, but my body is still recovering. The day after the slam I felt elated, on cloud nine. But, as the days progressed I started to think about it a lot. Did I do well? I felt increasingly anxious. I got a full-body massage that took the anxiety down a few notches, took a few baths, and that made it even better. I couldn’t figure out why I’d  have anxiety after the fact, especially since the whole thing went better than I expected. But I just learned that post-event rumination is a thing and it causes post-event what-the-fuckery.

After a week of talking to myself like a crazy person, the anxiety is mostly gone and I’m just feeling slightly more stressed than usual.

And? Totally worth it. However, next time I’ll be prepared for the weird things my brain might do even after a perfectly fine event so I can minimize the recovery time. Hopefully, I can scare myself often enough that at some point I’ll just be completely immune to all the terrible things.

Here’s to facing fears.


I Could Outrun A Tiger: Panic And Anxiety

Sometimes, my brain is a real asshole and seems to hate me. I’ve had anxious episodes a few times in my life. I suffer from low-grade depression, not always, but often. I’ve had a few panic attacks throughout my life. Lately, it’s been bad.

About four months ago I went out for drinks with colleagues and ended up in the emergency room around two a.m. after I demanded Francesco to take me because I believed, completely, that I was dying. It felt like I was. My heart was beating out of my chest, my legs were shaking, I couldn’t take a full breath of air, and I felt a kind of fear that is hard to even imagine.

Panic attack, the doctor said. They handed me an orange pill, tucked me into some warm blankets, and monitored me until the Xanax kicked in and I fell asleep in the hospital bed. The next day, it was as if nothing happened. I was fine. I’ve been fine.

Speed forward to this week. For no rational reason, I’ve been having a lot of anxiety. It seems like I’ve been overthinking everything and it’s been leading to some shit feelings, terrifying thoughts, and bad nights. I lay in bed at night, my mind racing, thinking, “oh my God, Francesco is going to die. So am I. So is everyone.” And I’m terrified for eight hours in the dark. This last Tuesday night, F was in class and my anxiety crept up again. I watched Bad Moms, snacked a little, tried to stay preoccupied. But around ten p.m., I was struck by the same indescribable fear as four months ago. My entire body started to shake, and I felt, once again, like I was going to die. Somehow, though, I fell asleep eventually but the next morning I woke up with the same panic. Let me tell you, it’s a shit way to start your day. Good morning, terror.

I was able to get into the doctor at eleven a.m. and was given a prescription for Ativan. I hate pills. I am scared of them and I don’t trust them. Still, it I didn’t have a choice if I wanted the horrible, terrible, scary, awful, feeling to go away. I practically sprinted to the Pharmacy and popped it right then and there. Twenty minutes later,  I felt slightly better but not great. I still felt shaky, my muscles were still tense and trembly, and despite my burning stomach, I couldn’t eat. Even crackers made me gag, which made my anxiety ten times worse. Eating is the most basic human thing. And I couldn’t do it. I was convinced I’d die if I didn’t eat. Which made it so I couldn’t eat. Let’s just say it was a terrible fucking cycle.

Unlike last time, it took me two full days to stop feeling panicked and anxious. And six days later, I’m still not at 100%. I stopped taking the Ativan after the second day and I feel better but I’m still slightly weary and uneasy. I’m still not able to sleep through the night. I’m still worried that it will happen again. Luckily, I have an amazing husband who all but dropped everything to reassure me, cuddle me, and stay with me until this feeling passes.

Fun fact about anxiety: All of its horrible symptoms, are actually your bodies way of preparing for combat and or running away developed from some time where we needed to fight crocodiles or club your dinner to death. You guys, I could outrun a fucking Tiger right now. Seriously, bring it. outrunning-tigers-image

I’ve also done a lot of introspection and realized that ever since I moved home from Italy, I’ve been stressed out, irritable, distracted, just below the surface. I don’t know why exactly but it’s been there and I’ve ignored it. I’m not a highstrung person, in fact, my parents make fun of me for being “too relaxed,” all the time. Apparently, all of the stress has boiled to the surface and is like, “PAY ATTENTION TO ME YOU TWAT!”

I am. I’m paying attention. I made an appointment with a therapist and I’m going to go to Yoga. And, I’m going to stop thinking about things that don’t matter. You really don’t realize how great your life is until you’re cowering in fear for no fucking reason praying for the horrific scary feeling to pass.

It’s been a shitty reminder to take care of myself. I’ll be doing this for a minute instead of worrying about getting pregnant and starting a family. Apparently, I need some self-love for a minute. It’s so easy to get caught up in life and forget to take care of yourself. Your body and brain will only take so much abuse before it bitch-slaps you from here to China.

Also, have any of you had panic attacks, anxiety? Have you experienced it with children? How do you manage? What has helped you?