I almost wrote about our dearly departed Phillip Seymour Hoffman this week, but all the sympathy for addiction and human suffering made me feel like what I really should do is let out some of my own heartache…because I think one thing we can all agree on is that addicts are seeking solace.
For readers of my blog who might expect something informative or culturally insightful, please take this for what it is: an admission of my own affliction. I have anxiety; largely of the social variety but that doesn’t stop me from having private panic attacks seemingly brought on out of the blue. I had my first panic attack 15 years ago and my latest 5 minutes ago.
I drink, I smoke and I’ve spent nights with other substances, but I try to stick to the mostly straight road because I’ve seen the destruction of addiction and don’t want to get any closer to that experience than I’ve already been. I don’t take Xanax or any other medications because I’m not sure I’d really react so well and have hopes of finding a way to dispel my dis-ease organically. I don’t want to believe that the only way to deal with my discomfort is through medication. Bike riding helps, but I’m still a classic deer in headlights when the wheels stop turning.
I’m trying to let go of my fears. I realized that the kinds of things that typically scare people don’t frighten me as much, and the kinds of things that terrify me are innocuous to others.
I climbed up a rusty metal ladder on the side of a crumbling concrete tower on the rooftop of an old downtown building. I froze halfway up, surrounded by nothing but air and distance from everything but the oxidized ladder that my sweaty palms clung to. Conquering my fear of heights is small compared to being terrified of saying something stupid, of being lame. Go ahead and laugh. I get nauseous to the point of nearly throwing up on my way to parties–for no good reason, I know. I break out into sweats doing interviews with just about anyone, and I’ve been at it for years. I rehearse the things I want to say to people I yearn to connect with and then I just…freeze up. The people I really want to get close to are the ones I have the hardest time around. It takes me a long, long time to open up. People probably think I don’t care that much or that I’m just pretty boring. Sometimes I feel more comfortable telling perfect strangers personal things because they have no vested interest in what I say.
I’m trying to let go. I’m trying to just be me. Rationally I’m not so worried about what people think, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m apt to feel like an alien and even forget how to use this human mouth I have. I’ve got a lot of creativity and ideas I want to share. I’ve got great ideas, but I only believe in half of them for half a second. The only sign that they are great is how receptive people I respect often are to them. Sometimes I just want to give them all away: “Hey, here’s a great idea, it’s all yours.” I want to collaborate and inspire and be inspired–instead I usually just clam up. I envy the people around me who embrace their own weirdness and dive into the mix; I want that too…but this little voice inside tells me I’m not cool enough. I’m not sure I show my true self on any given day, but I’m trying. I’m trying to let go of the weird fear inside of me that says “this world is waiting to eat you alive” and just speak from my heart. When people are impressed with the things I do, I can hardly understand why–I’m just trying to figure out how to be comfortable in my own skin. It’s not that I don’t like who I am. It’s just…the cat’s got a hold on my tongue most days. So when I act like a loser, like a terrible friend, and you think I’m stuck up and don’t really care…I’m just trying to let go of all these weird, scary feelings that fill up the vast invisible ocean between me and the people standing two feet in front of me–people I already know at a place I’ve already been before. It doesn’t make sense, but the ocean is not so made up– you see sometimes I’m truly drowning in it and all I can utter is gurgles as the waves envelope me. It’s deep, and I can swim OK, but where for the love of love is the end of this ocean?