I was excited at the prospect of taking a cute girl out on a date. If felt like the planets were lining up. I was working at the motel doing my usual glamorous scrubbing of the tiles when sweet Terri appeared and came out to chat.
“My dad said it was okay for me to go out with you on Friday.”
Those words exploded in my young mind like fireworks forged from dopamine.
“Great! It’s a really good movie and you’re going to love it. I’ll pick you up at 7 tomorrow?”
“Sure. I’m excited.”
This was like a classic boy meets girl fable. Boy is from the city. Everyone hates him and he’s ugly. He goes to the seashore for the summer, his skin clears up, get a job and meets a pretty girl from another town from far away and they go to the fair.
My anxiety was running super high the day of the date. I had lived with anxiety my whole life. People that don’t have it don’t understand it. They can live such better lives. They can just be happy, calm and do things without some weird crazy fear.
My sister Janice is a perfect example of a clear minded, stable person. I was so messed up my family even came up with an acronym to describe me. ARM. Anxiety Ridden Mess. I know that sounds cruel, but I actually coined the phrase and they just went with it.
When you have anxiety, it creates all kinds of bad symptoms. Mine was panic attacks, sense of dread of being in danger, paralysis, and worst of all physical illness. I always had this fear of throwing up in public in front of whoever I was with at the time. At the heart of my disorder was the fear of something new, or different. I wanted badly to date girls and kiss them and hold hands with them, but the fear of actually having to do it was debilitating. Things that bring most people joy and are fun, just grind my mind and gut into powder. I remember that shit starting when I was around 6 years old, and will write about it another time. Let’s get back to the story at hand.
Read more here: (Because this is a dating blog and not a site about mental disorders)
Hours before the date I was having bad anxiety. Restless, I even took a bath. I hadn’t done that since I was a little kid, but I thought it might calm my nerves.
It didn’t work. The deadline was approaching. I knew I had to force myself to do these things if I wanted to ever overcome this disorder and have a semblance of a life.
I’m actually feeling a lot of anxiety just writing about this moment in my life. My stomach is upset, and my shoulders are tight, and I’m on edge. I’m sitting at a table in the corner of a restaurant I frequent. I had lunch here earlier. It’s Misconduct where I have taken several dates and is a place of comfort. But I’m still having the fear composing this piece. I didn’t think this would happen, but it feels like I’m right back there before the date in 1977.
But I’m not, and I have to tell this story. Once it’s finished I’ll feel better that I finally got it out. Writing is one form of therapy that has really worked for me my whole life.
I just ordered a Manhattan hoping that’ll knock the edge off the fear. Anyway, back to the story…
So, I get dressed and try to look my best. My stomach is empty so I can’t throw anything up. That was my usual go to move back then, but that can cause headaches and weakness of spirit later. I pull myself together, look in the mirror and take a deep breath and head out the door to the motel.
I should be happy to be finally going on my first date with a cute girl. But what I’m feeling will haunt me well into middle age. I’ll just have to learn how to cope with it. Back then there was no medicine or therapy for kids like me. If there were I never took anything or talked to anyone. Part of me is glad I never took any medicine for it. Because where I am in my life now is a better place mentally than I’ve ever been.
“I used to be at war with my demons… but now we’re all on the same side.”
I know anxiety and depression so well and their symptoms I have rewired my brain to head them off faster and earlier so that they can’t get the upper hand, but it’s still a fight. It’s called evolving and coping. Something my own father never learned how to do. I never knew he suffered from OCD and high anxiety. I just thought he was uptight and controlling and got pissed off a lot. Rage is one of the things that dissipates anxiety. I learned this one day I was driving to a first date with a girl shortly after the separation with my wife. I was so scared and nervous I had a double plastic bag on the seat next to me if case I had to pull over and puke before the date. I hated the feeling and also throwing up, but it made me feel better after I did it and I could go through with the event. But somebody cut me off in traffic on the highway and I got angry. The fear vanished. In that moment I understood a part of myself and my father that not even he knew. That shit works, but is only a band-aid, not anywhere near a long-term solution for treating your anxiety.
I’ll wrap this story up tomorrow!
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