16.

Living the dream without caffeine

You know what's a question I hate?

"How are you?"

It's so loaded.

Like the person isn't just asking about your day. They aren't asking about how your day job is. They aren't asking if you spent eight hours of your day sitting at an ergonomically correct desk thinking about closing time. They aren't asking if you spent four hours carefully crafting emails laced with images of cute animals being cute, so your co-workers know you are 'fun loving' and 'deserve more money'. They aren't asking if you if you went home and fell asleep on your couch while your roommate is bumping Carly Rae as he cleans the kitchen. They aren't asking if you spent the day on your couch curled up with a pillow watching Sam Esmail's Comet questioning how your relationship is playing out in other dimensions (or the same dimension in different time periods, no one really knows).  

They are asking how you are. Like how is your existence? How is your mind feeling? Is your soul at ease? Have you fallen and can't get up? Do you need LifeAlert™ for your emotions? It's a question that has so many connotations, but no definite meaning.

The answers given are just as much of a loaded gun as the question. What do you even say to that? How many times have you heard a person just say good and brush off the question? Can you blame them? Will I ever stop asking rhetorical questions?

When someone asks me how I am, the words that typically come out of my mouth are "living the dream." It really a statement I picked up while working retail, and has become second nature. When working in a small retail store, you have to seem upbeat, perky, and never hungover. Imagine if you walked into a store and you, being the polite human being you are, you ask the person who greeted you how they are and within seconds, they tell you that they started to drink heavily in the last week because they finished Friday Night Lights (including but not limited to: the book, the movie, the TV series, and the fanfic that will forever remain in my mind) and now they have to work for The Man™ so they wish that Mr. Robot was real so f society could change the world and propel us into a new technological anarchical state so you can finally write your fanfic (working title: Texas Forever). I'm not an expert salesperson, but I'm pretty sure that's how to lose a sale in 10 minutes.

That's why living the dream just rolled off the tongue. It's simple. It's easy. And it's not a lie. Its more of a half-truth than a full lie, so technically I'm not lying when I say it's not a lie. But sometimes it is the full truth and those times are weird. Its weird because I don't think those times are ever real.

I feel like I'm floating through some weird sub-space highway where things are mirroring reality but it's too good to be real. Or that I was attacked by a bear in the wild and I ended up in this blissful coma where I'm living out this ideal world in my unconscious state (and that bear is slowing caring for me as it realised I am just a small brown man trying to live the dream).

Something about it just doesn't feel right. And that's fucked up.

Because it should feel right.

Good feelings should feel inherently good, shouldn't they? Shouldn't these feelings make you feel like you're on top of the world? Or like Ice T solving a case on SVU?

I've always been of the belief that too much good is a bad thing. If there was too much good, my mind just goes to this anxiety filled space where it sounds like a group of six year old children in my head yelling no over and over again. Like a ringing sound that started deep in the inner working of my brain and slowly releases itself through my body. Its like having a cup of coffee full of anxiety.

Don't get me wrong, I dream of coffee all the time. Coffee in the morning. Coffee at my desk redesigned to reduce stress on my back. Coffee in the bathroom. Coffee that makes me go to the bathroom. Dreaming of having coffee with a wonderful human. Having coffee with a wonderful human who doesn't drink coffee, but they always come along because you enjoy the company of one another.

But when my morning coffee is full of anxiety, my day is a nightmare. My heart races like I just took a double shot of an espresso. My mind strains itself just like the moment when the caffeine pill releases into your body. My hands shake more vigorously than my PC brand burr grinder. I sweat like the madman who makes his coffee extra hot in the middle of summer.

All these things happen all at once, but is hidden by a white porcelain mug. But instead of a porcelain mug that reminds me to celebrate everything, these ticks are hidden behind the flesh and hair of a lanky brown kid.

This used to be a reality for me. I would wake up and something wouldn't be right. I could get up to the blessing known as Suzy Q donuts in my kitchen and I wouldn't care. I felt like I didn't deserve it. I could have woken up inside of Suzy Q and had the aroma of the Wundercrunch enter my nose and I would still find something to be upset about.

And if I thought that was hard, interacting with people was even worst. If you haven't noticed, I like to ramble. A lot. Like I can go on about nonsense like how people don't brew green tea properly. Like did you know if you don't set your tea before you brew it, you'll burn it, ruining the taste. Or that you can use vinegar for almost anything but if you put it on your fries, I won't be able to talk to you ever again. Or how Rostam is essentially Vampire Weekend but Ezra still kills it but Rostam is the sound. You feel me? Like that weird preppy boy sound? That's Rostam. The preppy boy look? That's Ezra. But I digress. I talk a lot, but on days where donuts can't even change how I'm feeling, I go silent. I say few things and I feel like I'm being judged for every word that comes out of my mouth.  I felt like no one should listen to what I had to say, but because I had to say wasn't relevant. If the person I was speaking too wasn't laughing, then I felt like I was boring them.

And I thought it was ridiculous.

I had become my biggest critic and my worst enemy. In the back of mind, the question remained, if I can't face myself, how can I face the world? How can I fully enjoy these donuts? Why even have a cup of coffee if I'm just going to be tired anyways? These questions used to fill my head often. I'd be lying to you if I said that these questions don't cross my mind still. Less frequently, but they are still hang out in my mind.

The weird thing is that these questions don't bother me as much anymore. I'm not desensitized to them, nor am I trying to ignore them anymore, but I've started to realise that these questions from a dark place. A dark place that I made. Like if the Upside Down existed, I'm sure it would be somewhere hidden behind my neural receptors. For a long time, my anxiety was the demogorgon. It was there, it existed, but it rarely entered the real world. It was a demon stuck inside of my head that came out when it chose. It not only attacked me, but attacked the people around me. When I had tried to run away from the Prince of Demons, I ran away from those around me. I hopped on my bike and tried to find myself while I hid from the world in my own Fort Myers.

But like I said, these questions don't bother me as much anymore. If there is one thing that I learned (and I'm still learning) is that things aren't easy, but they aren't meant to me. My anxiety is a part of me that I hated, but I would never pass up. Why? It showed me who my support system is. It showed me that I can be better and taught me how to fall in love with the world around me through my eyes. My anxiety changed me, and every day I'm learning that I am a constant work in progress.

I'm not here trying to say 'it gets better and it all goes away' because I don't think that's true. My last anxiety attack happened less than a week ago. But it's progress. And in my opinion, progress is the best thing to happen to a person.

So next time someone asks me how I am, I'm going to tell them I'm living the dream. Why? Because I am progressing. I am growing. I am learning. But most importantly, the good days have started to outweigh the bad. I'm able to smile more, and make those people I adore smile more. Or hear the smile in their voice. Because I couldn't do this alone, and I never will be able to do it alone.

So friends, family and future folk, are you living the dream? I hope all is well.