Tag Archives: anxiety

Sour Beers and Tarot Cards

One week into 2019, I had a tarot card reading at a brewery. This was a first for me. As a Hufflepuff, I tend to avoid The Dark Arts. And as an anxiety-ridden soul, I tend to avoid things I can latch onto as proof of my imminent death. (Web MD is among The Forbidden, as are thrillers about germ warfare and, for whatever reason, Gone Girl.)

However, while at the bar, a friend approached me with an interesting proposal: a tarot card reading for the mere price of a sour beer. Her friend needed practice—and a drink—and was willing to do some readings. I was nervous, but intrigued.

“Have you ever had a reading before?” she asked.

I hadn’t. But as a child, I’d been scarred by Muppet Treasure Island and the possibility of picking up something with The Black Spot.

muppet treasure island

Muppet Treasure Island’s “Black Spot.” The stuff of nightmares.

“It won’t be like that,” she said.

So I agreed.

I sat down, still unnerved. I waited for her to ask me about my life, to dish details that she would later reposition as revelations. But she did not. Instead, she asked me to shuffle the deck and think. Think about a problem I was having, something I was wondering or trying to work through. Several thoughts crossed my mind. “Am I on the right track here in Chicago? Which theater should I try next? What’s up with me and dudes?”

I cut the deck and placed it in three piles representing the past, present and future. The stacks were by no means neat; my dry little witch hands had failed to tuck them into three tidy piles. This, she explained, meant something.

She suggested I pull the cards that jutted out the most. These were the cards with something to reveal.

The first card I pulled was The Kindred, a card that represents home and welcome, but it was upside down. This, she said, could mean I haven’t yet completed the step before The Kindred. That I haven’t allowed my roots to sprout because I’m still waiting for some feeling of assurance.

This resonated with me. I don’t feel like I’ve really “dug in” to the whole comedy scene because I’m not sure where I fit in. Do I want to do improv? Or write? Or both? And where? And what if I fail? I haven’t allowed myself to fully commit to anything because I’m afraid I won’t belong.

The second card, representing the present, was Two of Knives, also upside down. Knives are useful tools, she said. But when the card is reversed, it means I’m harming myself in some way. That I might be beating myself up over a decision, or an indecision.

“Girl, you think too much,” she said. “Get out of your head.”

Noted.

She also asked me to think about what I might be aggressively avoiding (the flu), if I’m in a rut (perhaps) and how I can fix it.

My future card was The World, which I immediately took to mean I was a warlock.

voldy

Actual image of me after drawing The World. Where my horcruxes at?

But it wasn’t what I thought.

It did not, in fact, point to my future world domination. Rather, it could mean that I feel like I’m back where I started. (Which is true, since I just finished iO classes.)

The fact that it appeared upside means that I haven’t yet completed the previous phase, The Awakening. That I need to look at myself and my gifts, learn to appreciate them, and learn to let go of past lives, relationships, insecurities, etc.

The last card we drew was my favorite. It was The Traveler of Knives, and it was the only card right-side up.

This, she said, was basically telling me to say, “Fuck it.” To get out of my head and follow what I feel is right—not to the detriment of others—but in a way that will allow me to carve my own unique path. It reminded me of some advice one of my favorite improv teachers gave me: “If you feel it, do it.”

In the end, I left this reading feeling really good. It reminded me of a therapy session: the practice of picking a specific thought, and dedicating some time to work through it, to consider it from all angles. (Side note: tarot readings would be a great way to sneak in some therapy for someone who “doesn’t believe in therapy.”)

Would I do it again? Yes.

Would I pay more than a sour beer? Probably not.

Will I, from this day forward, refer to myself as The Warlock Who Drew The World? Absolutely.

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Anything but write

I’ll do anything but write.

I’ll clean my room, brush the cats, reorganize my closets.

I’ll do anything but write. Because writing is terrifying.

Of course, I love to write. It’s why I moved to Chicago. But in doing so, I put something out into the universe that I can’t take back. I went after a fantasy of mine that’s never seen the light of day. Something that, until recently, lived as a picture-perfect daydream in the back of my mind. What’s going to happen when I drag it out? When I tear it from its safe place and say, “Here, World, is my most precious dream. Please discuss.”

That’s why, today, I’ll do anything but write. I’ll get a flu shot, I’ll buy some running shoes, I’ll stare at my cats — anything and everything to put off what’s most important.

My sketches need rewrites. My blog needs an update. But my face needs a fucking dermatologist. And that’s something I can tackle in a phone call.

 

Tonight!, I tell myself. Tonight, we write! But first, isn’t it Harry Potter weekend? And shouldn’t I watch something happy — just for a minute! — to get myself out of this crotchety headspace?

I turn on ABC Family and trick myself into forgetting how Harry gets Slughorn’s memory juice. Then, I genuinely forget who dies at the end of the series (everyone), and, 30 minutes later, find myself balls deep in a Harry Potter internet wormhole.

I did the same thing last month, only with Straight Outta Compton.

I’ll do anything but write, because being creative is uncomfortable. “What if I suck? I probably suck. And if I suck, what’s the point?”

I do my best to ride out these thoughts. I imagine what my old therapist would say. “Who cares if you suck? You’re taking classes to get better.”

She’s right. Of course she’s right. So, in an effort to quash my inner demons, I gave myself a goal: I’ll write for an hour, and then I’ll stop. I’ll blog about something (anything!) for 60 minutes, and then I’ll publish it without obsessively editing it for weeks.

So, my hour is up. Dog walking calls. Which means by the time you read this, I’ve already picked up some poop.

 

The Doctor

Visiting the Doctor: A Hypochondriac’s Perspective

You walk in. You sign in using the communal waiting room pen. This disgusts you.

You hand the receptionist your insurance card in exchange for an annual wellness survey. You mouth “thank you” and scurry to a dark, unoccupied corner of the waiting room.

You glance at the survey. It asks you to circle any ongoing symptoms or general health concerns. You laugh. Because they have no idea what’s coming.

You pick apart the list of possible symptoms as one might a tapas menu. Mood swings? Sure! Night sweats? Why not? You crack your knuckles and begin to unleash a year’s worth of neuroses. Within minutes, you convince yourself that you’re dying, if not already dead.

You’re soon escorted back to the next holding pen. There, you strip down to your moose socks and don the dreaded cotton gown. Honestly, you don’t really think about the other naked bodies it’s touched. Until you sit down.

Days later, your doctor comes in and you chit-chat. You talk about your family, your health, the news, etc. You crack a few good jokes. She laughs. “I’m on a roll!” you think. And for the next few minutes, you smile like a smug little asshole, blissfully unaware your gown is wide open.

You move on to blood work.

You faint during blood work.

You come to in a high chair, doubled over at the waist with a trashcan between your ankles.

A nurse hands you a lollipop. You accept the lollipop. You get the lollipop stuck in her lab coat as she checks your vitals.

You mumble your apologies. She tells you to eat your lollipop. You tell her it touched her lab coat and now you’re scared to eat it. She hands you another lollipop and a small cup of water. You notice that the cup looks just like those used for urine samples, but you say nothing. What’s the point? Clearly, you’ve lost too much blood to live.

I asked the blood tech to take a picture of in case I died. Here it is.

I asked the blood tech to take a picture of me in case I died. Here it is.

Another nurse comes in. She asks how you’re feeling. You say “weird.” She asks if you have children. You say no. She says, “Well honey, then that ain’t ever gonna happen.” You agree. Wholeheartedly.

You sit in the high chair like a small child waiting to be released from dinner. Once you’re able to stand on your own, you’re cleared to go.

At check out, you’re given a printout of your medical conditions. It reads:

Anxiety.
Asthma.
IBS.

“My God,” you say to yourself. “I’m a catch.”

Things that go bump in the night

I’ve never been good at partying. I spent the first half of my youth terrified of missing parties (skating parties, pizza parties, etc.) and the second half terrified of being judged at them.

I still exhibit some of these behaviors. For example, I taper my germ intake before big life events, and I usually lay low in the days leading up to them. Then, if I’ve successfully avoided all potential contaminants and do manage to attend to the party, I spend the next day kicking myself for the weird things I said or the people I may or may not have offended.

However, there are times I’m able to kick back, cut loose and throw down. And when I do, this is what happens:

The Brunch Plans. This is the first sign my inhibitions are slipping into dangerous territory. My close friends and therapists will know I absolutely loathe making plans with people. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of others, it’s that I’m a total commitment phobe. Making plans with people has always been scary for me. “What if it’s weird? What if they don’t have fun? What if they say ‘yes,’ we meet up, we have nothing to talk about and so I bring up meth mouth? Again?”

These are the thoughts that haunt my daytime socializing. The problem is that when I drink, I shed my hermit’s cloak and (much to my own horror) morph into something of a social butterfly. It’s incredibly inconvenient. And it usually happens one of two ways:

In some cases, I will engage in a “let’s make plans sometime!” conversation. You’ve seen the kind. When two estranged friends engage in a sloppy heart-to-heart and decide to rekindle an old flame.

“Oh my god, we should totally get drinks sometime. No, seriously. This isn’t just like a drunk thing. Let’s really do it!”

These types of run-ins are usually benign. Drinks + sometime = never. It’s merely a polite way of honoring your former friendship, but recognizing that you’re both now seeing different people.

But then there’s the second, much more serious kind of social butterflying. The “b” word.

Brunch.

As in, “We should totally do brunch tomorrow!”

Unlike “drinks,” “brunch” isn’t a word you can casually throw around. It sticks. It’s basically the promise ring of plan-making. Which means in my case, it is a cry for help. A plea for some handsome, like-minded hermit to swoop in, cancel all my plans and carry me to the nearest pizzeria.

My hero.

My hero.

And if my knight does not willingly reveal himself, I move straight to The Prowl.

The Prowl. There’s always one point in the night when I think to myself, “I’m going to bring someone home tonight.” This thought usually falls around 11 p.m. – too early for pizza, too late for good decisions.

My bedroom is basically an I SPY book of red flags. How many can you find?

My bedroom is basically an I SPY book of red flags. How many can you find? Answers below.

In truth, it’s a very small window of opportunity. I’m generally open to the prospect of coupling for about 15 minutes or so. But then I remember how much I hate sleepovers, and how possessive James gets at night. Which raises yet another concern: the cats. Should I tell him beforehand? Or do I risk a surprise introduction?

He requires full attention.

He requires full attention.

But of course, this last concern is pointless. My potential mate will undoubtedly know I have cats, as I will have:

A.) Offered this information as part of my introduction,
B.) Asked him to follow Joan on Instagram, or
C.) Made a dark and self-deprecating joke about dying alone in a Slanket.

In the end, I decide it’s not worth the risk of having to take him to his car in the morning. And so I move on to the Irish Exit.

The Irish Exit. If the hour is getting late and no one has promised me pizza, I will make a very quiet, very rude exit. I’m a slippery creature. One minute, I’ll be standing beside you, talking, nodding, smiling – seemingly engaged in conversation, yet secretly hailing an Uber.

It’s a learned skill, really. Finely honed between the ages of 26-28. You see, in my early 20s, I could easily be guilted into staying out past my prime hours. But now, if it’s late and I want to go home, I have no qualms with leaving everything and everyone in the dust.

Which brings us to:

The Sleeping Beauty. When I was little, I was convinced people were spying on me in my bedroom. (An early sign of psychosis? Perhaps.) I always imagined my crush – Bernard from The Santa Clause – was somehow watching me sleep, peering in my window, waiting for the right moment to pounce on my lips. As such, each night, I arranged myself like Sleeping Beauty: hair fanned out around my face, wormy little lips parted in anticipation, hands clutched by my pre-pubescent breasts.

Oddly enough, I revert to this mode when I’m drunk. I no longer think men are waiting to pounce on me in the night, but I do enjoy the occasional Sleeping Beauty treatment. It’s a naughty little treat, sleeping fully clothed and made-up. But I love it. And who knows, maybe Bernard does, too.

I SPY answers: Stuffed sloth, stuffed cat, real cat, cat tree looming over bed and, last but not least, blood-red wall paint — a giant red flag in itself. 

The Flu

Thoughts I had while fighting the flu:

Is this what it feels like to become a vampire?

How did this get through my defenses? Has The Fish Taco been lying dormant all this time?

Joan and James are being so nice to me.

JoanieJoan and James are being too nice to me. Can they sense what I cannot – imminent death?

I am going to die alone. I am going to die alone up here in this attic, in this stupid Megalodon t-shirt. (Dying alone has been a recurring fear of mine ever since I realized I don’t know how to perform the Heimlich — to others, or to myself. Twice I’ve chipped teeth while eating too quickly, so choking doesn’t seem too far fetched.)

When will my cool fever dreams kick in?

I had no idea cats could sleep so much.

Dreads

Fever hair.

Is that a dreadlock?

While hopped up on Sudaphed: Why do people do meth?

While crying in the urgent care parking lot: I really need cat litter. And Feeder Supply is right there. But I can’t be the girl who walks in crying, buys cat litter and leaves.

I am the girl who walked in crying, bought cat litter and left.

Should I call everyone I had contact with late last week? Or is that only appropriate with STDs?

What if my boss thinks I’m lying?

Because really, who gets the flu in May?

Maybe this isn’t the flu.

This definitely isn’t the flu.

While searching my body for ticks: I must have Lyme disease.

While searching my body for mosquito bites: I must have Zika.

While searching my body for claw marks: I must have Cat Scratch Fever. Oh, God. What a horribly ironic way to die.

– fin –

27

A year ago, I published a blog post about turning 26. It was one of my more serious posts, as it was the first time I’d ever opened up about having an anxiety disorder. **Cue the line of eligible bachelors**

Since writing that post, I’ve done a lot of work on my anxiety. I’m by no means cured, but I’ve definitely become more lax about sharing drinks with people. I even ate a fish taco off a hotel floor, which, by anyone’s standards, is downright irresponsible. A death wish, some might say. (Full disclosure: I spent the next day googling variations of: “Do microwaves kill herpes?”)

Since writing that post, I’ve been working on myself. Working on the ability to speak my mind, the ability to let things go, and the ability to get up and talk to people, even when I feel like they hate me.

But perhaps one of the hardest things I’m working on is learning how to value and appreciate myself. I spent a good part of last year thinking, “What the hell is wrong with me? What do they have that I don’t? Am I not ____ enough?” I leave this blank because, depending on the day, I’d fill in any number of descriptors. Spontaneous enough, confident enough, cool enough, pretty enough, funny enough, bold enough, open enough, creative enough. I didn’t feel enough. Period. I felt like an inconvenience in someone’s day, an intruder in their “group.” And while these fears have always lived in the back of my mind, I suddenly found them catapulted to the forefront. It felt like everything I’d feared about myself – my lowest, most self-hating thoughts – were proved true. And that felt terrible.

But today, more than a year later, I’m able to ask myself why. Why does someone else get to dictate how I feel about myself? Why do they get all the power? All of my power?

I’m also starting to realize that people come and go. Friends, boyfriends, lovahs, even husbands – they come and go. There’s only one person I can count on spending the rest of my life with. And that’s me. So isn’t it about time I came to peace with myself? Wouldn’t it make sense to start learning how to love myself? How to feel whole with myself, by myself?

This has been my focus. Which is why I nearly lost my mind when I came across the following:

meme2

If she’s hot and single, she’s crazy.

???

Now to be clear, I’m not saying I’m hot. I’m saying, as a single woman, “What the fuck?”

This meme hit me so hard because it is, quite specifically, the very thought I spent months beating myself up over. The fact that I am 27 and single baffles people, from my dentist to my relatives. I take this meme — even if it was made in jest — to mean there are those who view my singleness as an abnormality, like my childhood snaggletooth. I take it to mean that men must look at me and say, “Oh, she’s single? Well, what’s wrong with her then?”

Why does something have to be wrong with me? There are so many reasons why a woman would be single — why do we automatically assume that she’s a compulsive car keyer?

Maybe she likes being independent. Maybe she’s focused on other things. Maybe she’s just having fun. Maybe she doesn’t feel like doting on anyone, save her cats, friends and family. Yeah, maybe she got her ass dumped. But maybe he was unfaithful.

Maybe she’s just not into you, brah.

Why does a girl need to be spoken for in order for others to believe she’s cool? Why is a woman seen as worthy, valuable, “a catch,” or sane only when a man deems her fit for marriage? 

I realize this post might have crossed the line (several lines, really) from thoughtful to impassioned. And if you thought you were getting into another post about cats or germs, my sincerest apologizes, as I’ve certainly led you astray. To be clear, I’m not making sweeping judgments about men or any other group of people, and I’m certainly not trying to brand myself as a wronged woman in pursuit of justice. I love being single. I also loved being a relationship, when it was healthy. There’s nothing wrong with being in or out of a relationship, as long as you’re happy.

Happy is what I’m focused on. Not who makes me happy. Just being happy. Period. And if THAT’S what makes me crazy, cool. At least it’s not my cats.

So, about last night.

“Did I say anything weird last night?” It’s a question my friends have become quite accustomed to hearing from me. I find myself asking it on any given weekend morning, whether I’ve had one beer or seven. Why is that?

I know what you're thinking. What's there to worry about?

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s there to worry about? Looks like a normal girl to me.”

I started thinking about this the other day, particularly about the question itself. Why do we ask things like that? Questions that – to be completely honest – you don’t really want your friends to answer completely honestly. Sort of like, “Did I totally f-up that presentation? Be honest.” Or: “Does this haircut make me look like a Muppet? Be honest.” No matter what your friend says, what’s done is done. The presentation? It’s over. Your hair? It’s cut. Ain’t no answer — no matter how honest it may be — that can fix a bang situation beyond repair.

Maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, but I attribute my abuse of this question to insecurity. Because – in my big “aha” moment that inspired this post – I realized that I say weird stuff all the time. Day, night, it makes no difference. Whether I’m telling my boss about my cat’s birthday cake, or telling a man at the bar about my career as an up-and-coming apothecary, there is always something regrettable coming out of my mouth. So why do I even ask? Why do I even care? What’s done is done. That story about sea lion cataract surgery? Told it. That pick-up line about his neck veins? Used it.

So if I’m trying to find a point to this blog post, I guess it’s that I’m going to try to stop harassing my friends for reassurance. Because statistically speaking, I probably did say something weird. But at the end of the day, I’d much rather talk to someone about manatees or Megalodon than…well, pretty much anything.

Megaladon

The day I stumbled upon the word “Mockumentary” was a sad day indeed.