Getting Real

Sometimes, it’s hard to have a sense of humor about yourself. Especially when you’re using humor as a way to gloss over things in your life that stress you out or make you depressed. I’ve been unusually stressed lately, and so, here we are.

The support I’ve gotten from readers of this blog proves that no matter how insecure or out of place one feels, one is not alone in one’s awkward thoughts.

I’m going to use this post to get real with you, to describe what social anxiety feels like at its core, before all the jokes come in to make it more bearable, make you feel normal, if at all possible.

Social anxiety means looking back on your life and all you see is a string of embarrassing attempts at trying to be less lonely.

Social anxiety means saying a simple statement and then completely disengaging from the rest of the conversation because you’re worried that wasn’t the right thing to say.

Social anxiety means not acknowledging someone from your past whom you run into, because you either automatically assume they don’t remember you, or you’re worried that you won’t live up to their (nonexistent) expectations of you, or that they don’t want to talk to you. And then this person is hurt or offended by your actions, thinking you’re mean, that you’re a snob. When really, you’re just following your animal instincts: even dogs growl when they’re afraid.

It means constantly saying no to invitations because you’re afraid of what might happen. It means panicking about the invitations you accept and weighing the chances of getting out of it.

It means laying in your bed and wondering why you’re alone all the time. And it must mean that you’re a horrible, unworthy person and not at all that you never want to do anything.

It means entering any unfamiliar social situation automatically assuming you won’t connect with anyone there. It means longing for connection desperately but being completely jaded by the idea of it.

It means embarking on relationships with a relentless worry that you’re eventually going to be let down, hurt, abandoned. Even if all that person does is love you unconditionally.

It means being really exhausted and exhausting to those who love you. It means being acutely and unnecessarily critical of yourself. It means being afraid to live your life. It means being afraid to be yourself.

And, of course, it means feeling guilty about feeling this way, because relatively speaking, you’re an incredibly privileged person who has nothing but opportunities.

Beyond some of my own cathartic needs, I’m not sure what the purpose of this post is. I guess I’m saying that, if you’ve ever felt this way, I’m sorry. If you’ve ever felt like less of a human because of anxiety, I’m sorry. If you’ve felt alone, sad, and envious in a group of friends, I’m sorry. And to those who haven’t experienced this, try to understand that person who seems timid, insecure, unsure, or even quietly arrogant, rude, snobby. Don’t just listen to words, listen to their lack of eye contact, their crossed arms, their fidgeting. It’s a basic message, it’s an oft repeated message, but we need to be kind to one another.

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Nasal Spray: An Awkward Addiction Story

I have a fairly high pain tolerance. I’m able to get through most instances of discomfort by simply telling myself that it’s not permanent. Either the pain will end or I will die. It works surprisingly well! I also don’t have an addictive personality, generally speaking. I am wildly turned off by the idea of being out of control of, well, anything. Let alone my own mind. So drugs and other such things never really appealed to me.

But the one thing, THE ONE THING, I have absolutely zero tolerance for is a stuffy nose. Ever since I was a little kid, a stuffy nose meant a lot of misery and absolutely no sleep. Even a little bit of congestion would spark the tossing and turning. I needed my nostrils to be absolutely clear.

I was 8-years-old the first time I had Afrin. I was going on a field trip to see the Secret Garden. My mom knew that I really liked theatre but that I would be really unhappy if I had a stuffy nose throughout the thing, so she gave me the good stuff. I remember it so well. The instant feeling of absolute, total relief. I sat on my Sun Bonnet Sue comforter, utterly obsessed with my new ability to breathe. In and out. In and out. How glorious! How exhilarating!

And how dangerous.

As a child, my parents were able to monitor my nasal spray use when I had a cold. It was essentially for sleeping or special events such as the one listed above. Otherwise, I had to tough it out. It meant 7-10 days of being the mouth-breather kid, but I was mostly okay with this.

Ay, but that’s the problem with youth. Who thought it was a responsible idea to let 18-year-olds out of the house? To unleash the monster within? One good cold in college set me back one year in smelling things.

The stuffy nose appeared. I thought I could control it. I thought, I’ll go to the store and get some nasal spray and I’ll just use it to sleep and everything will be fine. I didn’t and it wasn’t. I found myself in class thinking it would just be one time. Then one time turned into every time.

And the thing about nasal spray is that, if you use it more frequently than every 12 hours for no more than 3 days, it can actually cause the congestion to get worse, which causes you to need more nasal spray. It’s a vicious cycle. I became completely dependent upon it. Would have to have it in my pocket at all times. Would have to make friends drive me to the store to get more since I didn’t have a car. Once, I woke my friend up in the middle of the night because I realized I’d left it in his car and needed it to sleep.

I was pumping this stuff into my nose probably once every hour. If I let it wear off, it would feel like someone had flipped my over and poured cement up my nostrils. Then I would sit up at night, my heart beating fast, full of anxiety about the unhealthiness of it all. I visited doctor after doctor that winter for chest pains and palpitations, oblivious to the fact that I was worried about myself and the poison I was pumping into my body 12-15 times a day.

I think I could finally admit I had a problem when I stopped being able to smell or taste things. That’s probably the only way I could ever admit I have a problem with anything: if it comes between me and food.

And so I began my journey to recovery.

I started with doing my research. It turns out this is a fairly common problem. Which is on some level comforting and on some level frustrating because if I was going to be addicted to something, I at least wanted to be original. It was common enough for there to be a nasal spray weaning kit, which involved diluting nasal spray with saline every night until your nose adjusts accordingly. So simple! So ingenious! Yet, I mentioned already, even the teensiest bit of stuffiness won’t do.

Cue the hardest weeks of my life. There was no sleep. There was no happiness. Just lunches not tasted and a nose filled with despair. The best phase was when stuff just started coming out of my nose, like an elegant bidet. All I wanted to do was sneak into the bathroom when no one was looking, and shove more spray up there.

But a little voice told me that this isn’t permanent. That one day, either the stuffiness will end or I will die.

And so, my addiction subsided and one day my nose cleared up like the hand of God poking through the clouds.

I would like to note that I am not belittling or mocking addiction in any way. Addiction is a serious issue that we need to come together to combat as a society and find ways to help people who truly need help.

It’s just that…nasal spray addiction is such a J. Awkward Prufrock thing.

And now the cruel joke is that I have a thyroid problem and can’t take any decongestants or else it will contraindicate my medicine. Thanks a lot, Jesus.

 

J. Awkward Prufrock’s Pop Culture Plugs

Hi everyone! I really really really didn’t feel like writing today. But that has been the situation way too often lately. You gotta push yourself to make things happen! Work begets work and yadda yadda. Once again, however, that pesky writers’ block planted itself firmly in front of me, crossed its arms, and dared me to try and move it. I hate both confrontation and passive-aggressive behavior, so even though I was angry with the writers’ block, I didn’t know how to deal with it. But eventually I sat in a corner and cried for awhile and I think I annoyed it into a somewhat-submission.

To figure out today’s topic, I thought, What’s been going on in my life this week? What awkwardness ensued? The thing is I spent a lot of my week avoiding people and indulging in the things I’ve been enjoying. So I thought, why not talk about the things I’ve been (and maybe haven’t been) enjoying?

I know y’all probably don’t give a hoot about my endorsements but if curiosity is what ails you, here’s your cure.

Trial & Error

Please, for the love of God, if you care about keeping good comedy on TV, please watch this show. A lot of people are calling it the new Parks & Rec, and I can understand the comparison because it does adopt that workplace documentary style. But it’s also really well-done satire. Its proposed format is that each season would parody a popular true-crime documentary. Season 1 tackles The Staircase. If you’re like me and you love comedy and also can’t seem to get off the Serial sub-reddit two years later, this show is for you! John Lithgow is brilliant and each episode is laugh-out-loud funny. I’ve been hearing a lot of cancellation rumors due to poor ratings and I can only think it’s from lack of awareness, so I thought I would do my part and tell both of my readers (thanks Mom & Dad!) to check it out. Thursdays at 8pm on NBC!

S-Town

Speaking of Serial, have you heard about its affiliate, S-Town? Yes, yes, you have. S-Town in no way needs my endorsement as the number one podcast on iTunes, but I seriously cannot get over how good it is. It starts off as a murder investigation, but it morphs into a fascinating portrait of a tortured genius, the crippled state of the world, the dynamics of human behavior, the nature of time, and what we leave behind after we’re gone. It would make a terrific novel or play. I hope that’s able to happen.

Beauty & the Beast

Alright, here’s where we get a little awkward and weird. The cartoon Beauty & the Beast was one of my favorites growing up. The new live-action version terrified me. The thing is the cartoon is already separate from reality, so you can enjoy it for its cuteness and catchy songs, but when it’s live, you’re like, “Wait, so, she’s in love with a dog and there are legit eternally-damned souls trapped inside household objects because their boss was a shallow douchebag? That’s messed up.”

Granted, the Beast was hotter as a beast.

Belle was my favorite Disney princess as a kid. I really identified with her as a girl who liked to read and dreamt of getting away from the people who thought she was weird and finding “something more”. As I watch the new movie, however, I realize that those are her only defining characteristics. The Beast was really the main character in this script. They could have done a lot more with her. And it pains me to realize that this girl dreamt of leaving her little town for “something more” and it turns out “something more” is a big, old castle near the town. Did she just mean more property? Were the lyrics more literal than I realized?

I also found myself very confused by part of the spell being that the residents of the town forgot the castle and everyone in it. I assume the Beast’s family governed the town. How did they get organized after they woke up one day and lived in total anarchy? How did they function economically without the castle as the town’s biggest employer? So many questions. I don’t think the witch thought this through.

But the most tragic thing is that these were two French aristocrats who seemingly found each other not long before the revolution. They were probably lynched in their yard. RIP Beauty & the Pretty Boy.

Ugh, you live, you learn, you grow, you mature, and you realize we’re all doomed.

On that note, I would love to hear your endorsements. What are some TV shows, books, movies, podcasts that you’re enjoying? Go to a cool museum recently? Or just stared into the window of a really old guy’s house? Send me the address! I’m always looking for a good distraction.

P.S. If someone more tech literate than me could make a meme of Belle telling the beast to “Come into the light” and, it turns out, the beast is Daniel Radcliffe from Horns, I’d be ever appreciative. In return, I could offer you my firstborn or eight Smash Burger coupons.

I Put the Ports in Sports

My dear friend Andrew requested I take a stab at writing about sports.

I’m here to tell you I know nothing about them!

I think football has been explained to me at least 4 times now. In one ear and out the other. I’ve tried to learn because movies have taught me that if you’re not the manic pixie dream girl who somehow learned everything about life by dancing in the rain, then you’re the girl who swears a lot and loves whiskey and football and the guy realizes he’s been in love with you the whole time in act 3. But as much as I love whiskey, I can’t get behind football. Or soccer. Or golf. Or tennis. To me, there’s just nothing to care about. No protagonist to follow, no interesting motives to study. Two teams are there to win, and even if I wanted one team to win more than another team, I can’t get mad at the other team for doing what they’re supposed to do. I just can’t.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve met many people who, upon seeing me, automatically assumed I was athletic. I am not athletic. I like to exercise. And by “like,” I mean need a vice to combat my anxiety that is not drugs or alcohol. I am terrible at any form of movement that requires speed, agility, or coordination. The only form of movement I’m good at is the kind that’s objective is to keep moving…slowly. I would die immediately in the zombie apocalypse.

I had a note to get out of most activities in gym class (thanks to asthma and that time in kindergarten when we had to run laps and I started to vomit. However, like the little rule follower I was, I knew I was supposed to be running, not vomiting. So I kept running…and kept vomiting. All over that that wooden gym floor, my little gags echoing off the reverberant walls). If I didn’t have a note, I would wait on the line to play and then move to the back of the line every time I got to the front. If it was a team activity and I had no note, I would half-heartedly trot around the field with my hands out in front of me like I was ready to catch something (hopefully a taco).

One time I tried to turn basketball into dancing basketball, twirling away with the ball in my hand. The gym teacher yelled at me and told me there was no dancing in basketball. Which brings me to…

I did go through a phase where I really liked resident-funny-lady-of-the-time Rosie O’Donnell and from that sprung a totally healthy obsession with a little movie called A League of Their Own.

Even at age 9, I knew it was an important movie. Despite my undeveloped understanding of the true meanings and implications of the movie, I knew I felt inspired. I wanted to be just like those women.  And the most logical place I could think to start was with baseball.

I quickly learned that girls don’t play baseball. They play softball. Girls haven’t played baseball since the events of A League of Their Own. Why this is so, I cannot say. Either way, I signed up for the local (girls’) softball league.

I remember being incredibly nervous for my first practice. I’d never really played softball before. I’d never really tried to play a sport before. I had no idea what was in store.

The first thing I discovered was that I was extremely afraid of the ball.

It was huge and hard and flying at my face (no, she didn’t say that. Stop it). Why would I put myself in danger just to get someone else “out”? That seemed unnecessary and bad for their self-esteem. And so I would do my best to get as far from the ball as possible. This was, surprisingly, a point of contention with my teammates.

You’d think I could have made up for it by being good at hitting the ball. I was okay at this, because it was an action that got the ball away from my face. Plus, I got to wear that fetching head gear. But, as you may recall, speed is not a gift I was granted. It didn’t matter if I hit the ball to the corner of the field. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d hit it out into the parking lot. Someone would have gone to collect it, gotten a smoothie, and then walked it over to first base before I even got there.

Maybe I had PTSD from all the vomit-running I did when I was younger, but I also seemed to be a bit afraid of running. I essentially did a brisk walk to the bases. As a walk, it was pretty speedy, but my knees didn’t want to shift into the running mode. They just locked.

For some reason, even though it made me miserable, I insisted on playing softball for multiple seasons. When I hit age 11, I ended up in “Major Little League,” which essentially meant I spent a lot of time on the bench. Maybe that’s why I stayed on. It was a nice block of time to sit and read a book a few times a week.

So I suppose, one could say I, Jillian Ports, put the “Ports” in “Sports”…because the integral “s” is still missing.