Living Microdosing Reality

The Anxiety List – Part One

It’s almost 6 a.m., and I’m sitting in a cabin on a cliff at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Gwennie has created a recliner of pillows on the bed and is reading about how the US government murdered JFK. Although the book is now lying on her chest, her eyes are closed, and she’s snoring.

The relentless rain turns the tin-roofed cabin into an immersive acoustic experience—slightly like popcorn in a microwave but far more relaxing. Microwaving popcorn is stressful.

The list of seemingly mundane activities that increase my anxiety would fill notebooks and far more therapy sessions than my FSA account would allow. 

Mundane Activities that are Stressful – Part 1

1. The aforementioned microwaving popcorn. Has it stopped popping? I count the seconds. But there’s one more pop. Is that enough to reset the countdown? Once, I had a bag that was half unpopped when I stopped the process. I couldn’t take the anxiety anymore. The smell of burnt popcorn permeates the breakroom and the cube farm at work, the embarrassment lingering like the scent of failure isn’t worth having a full bag of popped corn.

2. Eating in the breakroom. I tend not to do it. Sitting there, eating, while others randomly walk in and out of the room to get their coffee or feed the vending machine gods in exchange for sugar and caffeine. They tend to see me and then the inevitable small talk. Also, I hate the sound of my own chewing, the process of mastication itself. Surely, others also want it to stop as much as I do. 

3. Small Talk. The weather is dull in Eugene, Oregon. Yup, it’s still raining. And I don’t know much about pop culture. Although, lately, more people have been talking about women’s basketball (thank you, Caitlin Clark), so that’s a pleasant surprise and a point of entry. Also, I have entered the world of Swifties. I’m still standing in the foyer. I haven’t taken off my shoes or jacket yet and keep my eye on the door. There are some folks huddled together that put the fanatic back into being a fan. It’s like a weird party where there’s a group doing cocaine in the bathroom, a study group at the dining room table, writers in the den, and some folks outside trying to set the whole house on fire. Anyway, I digress. This is why small talk makes me anxious. My brain rallies against it.   

4. Walking in public places. Are my steps too loud? Do my shoes squeak? My far-too-expensive Hokas sit in my closet, a testament to the shame of being a fat person with squeaky shoes. My shoes need to be ninja-level silent. What is my body doing? Do I look like I’m angry? Scared? Am I intimidating enough to be safe? Am I too butch and obvious in my transmasculinity that I’m unsafe?   

5. Buying an airplane ticket. What does my driver’s license say my name is again? Fuck, what do I do about gender? What happens if it doesn’t match my driver’s license? Don’t airlines know that “X” is an option? Am I leaving from the right place? Right date? Where am I landing again? How long is the layover? Will this carry-on bag I’ve used for two decades really fit like it has done every single time? Check the airports and dates for the hundredth time…  

6. Waiting. Did I miss the reason I’m waiting? Has the train or plane already left, and I zoned out and missed it? Did the Uber driver see me and choose not to stop? Did my friends decide this would be the lunch they’d stop coming to and ditch me? Am I at the right restaurant/gate/door/place? What day is it? What time? Do I look anxious? What are my hands doing?  

7. Waiting for therapy. This deserves its own mention, separate from general waiting. The waiting room is meant to create calm, with beautiful art, a self-serve coffee and tea station, a comfortable couch, and a couple of chairs with pillows proclaiming “It’s okay to have feelings” above a rainbow-colored wheel of words like “sad,” “angry,” and “scared.” I’m early. Always early.   

I try an exercise to help ground myself and look for each rainbow color in the room. The pillows don’t count; that would be cheating. So would the rainbow people Lego set. And the rainbow circle on the cover of the Psychology Today magazine on the coffee table. Going to a queer therapist makes this exercise laughably easy. So I laugh and quickly wonder if it was too loud. Sorry person in session. I hope that laughter wasn’t inappropriate.     

Or I pace between the couch and the coffee table. No one else is in the room, so my only worry is that I’m caught pacing by my therapist. I mean, I’d hate for her to see me in the midst of the anxiousness we talk so much about. So I pace nervously, watching the time, an odd game of musical chairs where I sit down as soon as I hear the doorknob of her office start to turn.   

Then I have to get back up, walk across the room, figure out how to sit on a couch, and get comfortable while I’m not at all comfortable. I take a deep breath. She looks at me with her head slightly tilted and asks in a very therapist-like voice: “So, how are you?”

“Fine,” I say.

We both laugh knowingly, skip the small talk, and begin. 

Featured Image modified from a photo by Mitch on Unsplash

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