To quote my favorite animated kid’s movie, “I’m a donkey on the edge.”
Last Monday night, I was meditating under the full moon, happy that retrograde was over and ready to have a kick-ass week. Tuesday, I finished up some submissions for my writing and sent them out, packets I was very proud of. But by Friday, I’d reverted to a hot mess. I had a panic attack, followed by a semi-hysterical meltdown (I’ll be accepting my Tony award for ‘Living Theatrically in Normal Life’ now please), and that was capped off by yet another panic attack. Where exactly did all my internal peace go exactly? Now while I can appreciate all you of you stoned-faced, this ain’t going to bother me, I ain’t scared of no ghosts mofo’s who are out there keeping calm and carrying on, that isn’t me.
I live with anxiety and depression (and probably a couple of other undiagnosed quirks too). If you’ve never experienced anxiety to a degree where it paralyzes you, I envy you in a way that’s bordering unhealthy. It’s an interesting time, to say the least. Now truthfully, I triggered myself (I’ll be pressing charges) by deep diving into the news. Constantly flipping and swiping like an addict, needing more info, needing any info I could, you know, trust. But what else can one do while pacing through the opening days of a full-on global pandemic? Refreshing feeds, getting conflicting reports, inconsistent stories, wading through memes; all the noise was getting louder and louder, so a panic attack was inevitable. (two in one week is a bit much)
And I’m not generally freaked out easily either. Quite the contrary, I am a gay man who came of age during the AIDS epidemic (that fear you guys are feeling lately – yeah that’s been nearly my whole existence) you want to talk to scary? Try navigating a blossoming sex life and raging hormones with the overwhelming fear you will die. You want to talk anxiety-inducing? (Sometimes I wonder if having grown up queer in such a bigoted country isn’t the cause for most of my mental health issues – whom the fuck do I sue?)
But if I ever wanted to touch some butt (and believe me, I did), then I had to face that fear. I’ve also been through quite a few of these ‘end days’ scares, Y2K (they thought planes would fall out of the sky, hysterical), and 2012 (years of hype for nothing). The Swine Flu, Bird Flu, Sars, two ‘raptures,’ the Bush administration, hell, the 90’s in general. So yeah, believe me when I tell you, I don’t frighten easily, except last week when Lil’ Covid (as I like to call him) stepped his pussy up to go global. I got scared.
It’s not being dramatic to say our entire world changed in a minute, because it did. And on that Friday (the 13th no less, ba-bum-buuuum), I had panic attack number two in my car while staring at the entrance to Petco. I was terrified. Was Lil’ Covid waiting for me on the handles to the shopping carts that were lined up out front? How long did his ass live on surfaces? Was he just hanging in the air? Where the employees sick and didn’t know it? Was I? There were no answers to these questions yet, nothing I could use to rationalize my fears. So, taking the cue – those fears gang-banged me. And I was stuck in the car for twenty-minutes with my hands clutched to my chest, too scared to move (living the Gwyneth Paltrow Contagion fantasy).
I stared at the doors wondering if their employees were sick and unable to stay home, which, look, no judgment here, we’ve all had to do it since we have a pretty fucked up ‘work till your dead’ culture here in this country. It was nerve-wracking, but at the same time, my babies needed food. But how much food? Was the store already ransacked? Were people fighting over the last cans? It’d only been a couple of days, but if there is one group of people you don’t want to mess with, it’s pet-owners. I may have been scared to go into that store, but trust I would cut a bitch from groin to gullet to get my cats their food. And did I need to really stock up on their food? Would we be quarantined like Italy? How does that even happen in America? Not easily, apparently.
I went in expecting Thunderdome level shenanigans, but it was okay. Thankfully, it was nearly empty, felt clean, and with plenty of stock, so there was no need to shank anyone. I washed my hands twice in the bathroom and hit every Purell dispenser they had because, again, I am donkey on the edge. I know the birds were watching me, just studying my actions like ‘wtf is this dude’s problem? (um, a global pandemic I can’t fly away) Checking out was fine until I had to touch the pin pad, had it been cleaned? How many people had touched it? Did those people wash their hands? Did the virus cling to plastic bags? Could he Spider-Man swing his ass from a cashier’s nametag to my untouched face? And from somewhere in the back, a man coughed, and I almost went to the damn floor. We can laugh about it, ‘cause it is funny. But it was harrowing, I tell you.
And it didn’t end when I left the store either, once I got in the car and looked at the steering wheel, I froze again. The ominous music started playing, and I blankly looked around and wondered, is he already in the car with me? Was Lil’ Covid ready to spring up from the backseat like a masked killer and get me? When I got home, the first thing I did was Lysol my clothes, and then in the shower, I spent thirty minutes scrubbing and sobbing.
The next day it hadn’t improved (but hey neither had the world), and all I could think were survival thoughts: Is my pantry full enough? My fridge? How long does it take for all this to descend into Mad Max territory? My body isn’t ready, and I still haven’t picked an apocalypse look (leather is so predictable, I’m thinking crushed velvet). I have a bidet, so I wasn’t worried about toilet paper, unlike some. But I can’t help but wonder if that part will be in history books of the future? “During the pandemic of 2020, ancient man believed, for unknown reasons, that they would not be able to wipe their asses in the wake of the Coronavirus and, in a panic, depleted the world’s supply of toilet paper. And that class is why we now use the three seashells.”
It’s an interesting time for those with an anxious mind, and I run a high risk of being stuck in a cycle of fear and anxiety (which will only lead downward), which is hard to avoid when every day brings more new. I had to face some of my concerns, or I wouldn’t be able to move forward, and if I couldn’t do that, this self-isolating would have ended as well for me as it did the narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper. It took a couple days to find my balance, increasing my meditation sessions, and remaining focused on being grounded and present (the past really doesn’t matter anymore). I’m still a donkey on the edge, but I am way better. I feel grounded enough to face whatever comes next, grounded enough to be a rock for someone else if they need it. I know once this passes, and it will, things will get better. It might be rough. Probably uncomfortable until then, but we have each other.
When I was at my worst, it didn’t seem like anyone else was scared. I felt lonely, and the literal world was ending (except I know that wasn’t true – a lot of us are afraid). It seemed like everyone was moving on doing things, and I was staring at the wall in my office. Unable to think of anything but Lil’ Covid. Unable to find my creative strength, but seeing people online springing forward with special quarantine events, wasting no time taking creative advantage of their isolation, and I could barely string any words together. I wanted to be like them, but I am who I am, and instead, I had to convince myself that it was okay for me to take the time I needed, freak out briefly I need too, but stay rational. No one is alone in this, and though this situation is one beyond our control now, and all we can do as a conscious human being is our part to stop the spread and weather the storm.
It’s been a rocky couple of weeks, but every day (as long as I control my news intake and stay with my mediation routine), I am choosing to feel better. And choosing to be grateful for all my blessings. Choosing to focus on the good this pandemic will usher in once it passes (and it will). Till it does, take care of yourself, and be sure to check on the people that randomly pop into your head, check on your fam, strangers if they look like they’re struggling (this needs to be a compassionate time), and please be socially responsible. And since you’re self-isolating anyway, why not try a little meditation? It does wonders.
And most importantly, freak out if you want or need too, I’m not going to tell you to just calm down and wash your hands, I’ll join you with panicked screams of my own, I am a donkey on the edge after all. But once we’re done screaming, we’ll dance in the empty streets Night of the Comet style.
This is such a beautiful tribute to those if us who struggle daily with crippling anxiety. I too have laid paralyzed on the floor through situations that were out of my control. You are not alone! I constantly worry “Am I panicking too much, or maybe I’m not worried enough”
And Soon, I will join you as we dance in the streets together!!!