Monday, November 16, 2015

That One Time My Anxiety Gave Me Superpowers

This is a story with two important characters.

The first character is my anxiety. Now, everyone has at least a little anxiety. A little anxiety is healthy. A little anxiety is what makes you prepare adequately for a job interview. A little anxiety keeps you from going too fast when you are driving down the highway. A little anxiety keeps you from punching a stranger when they’re leaning against a hand-pole on the El. I don’t have a little anxiety. I have a lot of anxiety. My anxiety makes me show up to work an hour early because what if the bus I take the work catches fire and I have to walk a couple of miles? I wouldn’t want to be late and I definitely read a story about a bus that caught on fire one time three years ago. My anxiety means that when I was 17 and first got my driver’s license, I drove in the slowest lane on the highway and never went over the speed limit… unless my anxiety made me think I was running late for something. My anxiety makes me panic when I hear a phone ring. My anxiety makes me avoid people I know on the street instead of saying hello. My anxiety has me convinced that after the Presidential election next year, the U.S. is going to turn into a Handsmaid’s Tale style dystopia. My anxiety makes me constantly imagine worst case scenarios.

Generally speaking, I have a lot of anxiety and it’s usually not a good thing.

The other character in this story is my wife Chelsea. Chelsea, if you haven’t met her, is a badass. Chelsea is kind, wickedly intelligent, and figuratively and literally strong. She will feed you, house you, and lend you her ear when you are in need, and then go to the gym and deadlift 250 pounds. Chelsea is also a huge nerd who loves Harry Potter so much that she cried when we went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter earlier this year. Chelsea is a badass. A nerdy, nerdy badass. She’s also pregnant with our child who for the time being we are calling “Stormageddon, the dark lady of all.”

So about two weeks ago, Chelsea and I were getting ready for work in the morning the same as we do every morning. I had taken a shower,  gotten dressed, and started to make coffee and breakfast. Chelsea was in the bathroom getting ready to shower. From the bathroom, she said “Sean, I think I have a bloody nose.” This is not a regular part of our morning routine. I opened the door to the bathroom thinking I’d see my wife with a little trickle of blood on her face. Instead, Chelsea was covered in her own blood. It was actually starting to pool on the bathroom floor.

I’m pretty sure this is the sort of thing that would worry anyone, but as a person whose life is ruled by anxiety, I have to tell you, my first thought was “My baby is dead.” Fortunately, I ignored this thought, checked with Chelsea and said “are you okay.” She replied “I don’t know.” I went to turn off the stove, and came back to find her crumpled up on the floor, unconscious.

This was when my anxiety really kicked in. However, this is also when my anxiety gave me superpowers. It was like a switch went off in my head. I spend every waking moment of my life imagining worst case scenarios, and for once, a worst case scenario had happened and I was very, very prepared.

I called 9-1-1. I described what had happened and they sent an ambulance to my apartment. While we waited, I managed to get Chelsea into the shower (she had regained consciousness but was still very woozy) and washed the blood off. We put her in some pajamas, and then got her on the couch. The EMTs arrived and checked her out. She was still very out of it. They told us we should get her to an emergency room ASAP. They brought her down to the ambulance and set her up. While they attached bags of fluid and whatnot, I emailed my boss and her boss to let them know what was going on. Or most of what was going on, anyway, since we didn’t even really know what was going on. I got in the ambulance and we went to the ER.

When we got there, the doctors, nurses, and residents gave Chelsea cold packs for her face. It turned out she had passed out twice and landed on her face both times, smashing her nose and her mouth. This was a weird relief because it meant she hadn’t landed on the baby. They determined she was dehydrated, this is what had made her pass out, so they hooked up some IV bags and started pumping her full of fluid. We waited as they did EKGs and blood tests and whatnot. They did an ultrasound.

Stormageddon was fine (she even started kicking a little). Chelsea was fine too. After 4 hours in the ER, we were discharged. We stopped at Jewel to get gatorade and headed home. Chelsea set up on the couch while I washed the now dried blood off of the bathroom floor. I went to work.

I walked into the office and my boss said “What the hell are you doing here.” It was at about this moment that that anxious part of my brain turned off just a little and I thought “what am I doing here?” I’d been running in worst case scenario mode all day. Somehow, I’d felt a need to get to work because if I didn’t wouldn’t they fire me?

I went home and spent the rest of the day with Chelsea.

The thing I want to emphasize here is that anxiety sucks all of the time but it isn’t all bad. I’m a writer and being overly analytical makes me really good at that. It makes me good at comedy too, which is my other big passion. It also turns out that it makes me exactly the guy you want around when a worst case scenario actually happens. When you pass out and smash your face on the ground, I’m the guy with the super power you need.

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