It happened at a dinner that I had been looking forward to. It was a cold February evening and I was glad to be out of the house. I’d been unemployed for a few weeks, had no real employment bites, hadn’t really told any friends about it, and was having some cabin fever.
It was Feb 2016. I had been at Marbles for over a year and was beginning to consider it a career. It was a bit of a betrayal when they decided to close their NY stores leaving me and my staff without work. I was angry. I was upset.
I decided since I didn’t have anything nice to say I wasn’t going to say anything. So I didn’t. I didn’t really tell friends. I didn’t tell family. I avoided social media. Winter was at its worst and darkest and so was I.
I felt my face flush. Sweat beaded on my forehead and began to slide down my nose. I was burning up inside. My shirt was sticking to me.
“Are you okay? You are really sweating” My friend said.
“It’s warm in here.” I lied.
It was dripping down my back. I could feel dampness behind my knees in my jeans.
A while back, I had these rivers of sweat and sudden waves of heat situation on stage. I attributed it to severe stage fright. I stopped performing and decided that it was just not meant to be. I went from doing a lot of stagework, to one show a year, to none. I told myself I would focus on writing.
“Are you sure?” Rodrigo asked, seeing that it wasn’t stopping.
“I am going to step outside.” I said.
I stood in the icy wind without a jacket, unable to cool off. When it got to the point that it would only be more awkward for me to be standing outside than to be inside sweating, I went back in.
Only to have it start again. Worse, this time.
“I think I’m getting sick,” I said. “I’m going to go. Please. Finish dinner.”
I left them there.
I walked home with my jacket open. Tears mixed with my sweat. I was burning hot. I was furious. I was depressed. I was… anxious.
I got into my living room and it all stopped. Safe. Home. Secure. Alone.
Rod got home and asked if I was okay, if it was the flu. I told him the truth.
“I feel like I have stage fright in my real life,” I said. “Something is wrong with me.”
He hugged me and things seemed better.
I didn’t leave the house for three days. I went to the grocery store. The cashier asked if I wanted credit or debit.
It happened again. I felt flush. My hands shook. I dropped my card. She laughed. It got worse. I swiped my card, raced home, put on a telenovella and waited to dry off.
Two days later it happened at the bank while I waited to see a teller. I got out of line and went home without pulling out the rent money. I was too flustered to even stop at the ATM.
It happened when I tried to make my first facebook status after being silent for a month.
It was mid march and I hadn’t told anyone. I hadn’t seen anyone. I spent a lot of time crying. I found excuses not to go places. I saw the look in Rod’s eyes when he would come home and find me in the same place as when he left in the morning. I dreaded possible job interviews. I wondered if Rod and ever got married, would I be able to stand in front of people to say vows. I wondered if would ever be able to present my work to anyone. I wondered if I would ever go outside again.
Friends chatted with me on messenger and asked how I was. I said “fine” but hoped…prayed… that they would ask again so I can say. No. I’m not fine. I wanted someone to rescue me. I wanted someone to know I was in trouble. I began to look into positions where I could work from home. I had been given an performing opportunity, the biggest opportunity I had ever been given, and I contemplated turning it down.
I needed help. But “help” was for crazy people. Drugs were for crazy people. Therapy was for crazy people. And I was not crazy.
I told myself this as I continued to scour craigslist for work from home opportunities. I told myself this when I was deciding not to turn down the performing opportunity.
I got over myself and called a friend who is in the Mental Health profession and told him what was going on and what insurance I had. He gave me a list of names. I called one and scheduled an appointment.
When the day came I made a beeline for the doctor’s office. I barely looked up from my phone the entire ride. I blasted loud music. I played angry birds. Anything to distract me from the crowds, the warming spring temperature, and the fact that I was outside.
When the doorman asked who was there to see I got flustered and almost couldn’t tell him… somehow I stuttered the words and went upstairs.
I sat in the doctor’s office and I told him everything. How I did it without crying is still a mystery to me. I was so embarrassed, so humiliated. All the things I knew I was, I wasn’t. I wasn’t acting like a performer. I wasn’t acting like a manager. Hell, I wasn’t acting like a man. I was sitting on my couch whimpering because I was afraid to go outside.
He made some observations. Definitely made me feel comfortable in my situation. Gave me some options…. And prescribed some drugs. He gave me all the things I said crazy people needed, while assuring me I wasn’t crazy. He gave me _________ to take daily to help raise my bar of comfort. He gave me _________ to take if I did make the decision to perform again. And he gave me ____________ in case of emergencies. I got them. I started. I waited.
I’d love to say that the next day the sun was out and I was out running and playing and interviewing and auditioning. But it took time. And it was a journey. But most of all, it was a series of accomplishments.
It was going out to dinner for the first time with friends from DC, being terrified that I would have an attack of anxiety- and for the first time… not.
It was a series of adjustments in medication.
It was telling Rodrigo, “I feel normal and want to stay out.”
It was telling my close friends.
It was telling my parents.
It was Rodrigo being my rock.
It was the side effects of weight gain.
It was saying “yes” to that performing opportunity.
It was using Pokemon Go as an excuse to go outside all day long.
It was going to California and seeing old friends.
It was performing in “Underpants Godot”
It was interviewing at Santaland.
It was getting married.
It was sitting in front of the sold out Towle Theatre and doing a talkback about Standby.
It was the few times that the attacks happened again and how I was able to deal and live through it.
It was telling that to my doctor.
It was my doctor saying the word “stable”
It was yesterday.
It is today.
It is knowing that it will happen again and that I will be okay when it does. It is knowing that I can be honest with you all about this and knowing you won’t think I’m crazy.
It is also me not giving a shit if you do.
I’ve been trying to write this for a long time, but for some reason the words only came today. So this is honesty.
This is anxiety.
This is me.
That one guy from ENCORE! on ABC. NYC based Writer/Actor/Storyteller. Theatre Maker. Husband. Bad Hombre. Cat Taunter.