For me, these manifest themselves in my chest. I can feel it coming before it completely takes over and that just scares me more. It's like the first tremors in an earthquake where everyone in an office looks at each other for a second to confirm what they suspect. Then, that first big wave hits and everyone jumps for a door frame. That's what it's like for me. I haven't had one in a while, so just like that California big one we keep waiting for, I guess I was overdue. Still, when those first few pin pricks gather in my chest and some part of my primitive mind floods the blood stream with fight or flight juice, my first thought is always, this is not an anxiety attack.
It is all just part of the process. Because when I think that, the wave building in my chest explodes in my mind and all rational thought it done. Now I can only sit back and ride the ride. You can't think yourself out of an anxiety attack. It's like trying to repair a broken machine with the broken machine. That's the next thing I tell myself and that leads to the unbelievably depressing thought that my head is a broken thing. Depression and anxiety now!
Two for the price of the one. Great.
Do I sit up? Maybe I should go for a walk? Do I just lay there in bed? Will there be something on TV that could possibly help? There is no right answer and to every choice I entertain there seems to be a cascade of reasons why that won't do any good either. In the end, I usually end up laying where it started. These pass pretty quickly, but while I am in the middle of it, that thought never crosses my mind. What crosses my mind is a million things in rapid images that all say, you have failed. Isn't it nice when your own mind becomes your biggest enemy in a crisis?
I sit up in bed, take a few deep breaths and look and the tiny little room I rent. The anxiety starts to fade as quickly as it started. Now comes the soft landing of sadness. When I look at the small room I refer to as the box, I wonder if I will still be here when I am 50 and if I will still be thinking I am just a step away from the larger career in comedy I have wanted for so long. I think of a line from the Russel Crowe movie, Gladiator. It is in the beginning of the movie when they are about to fight the tribes of Germania. One of his generals comments, "Don't they know they are already beat?" Crowe, sitting on his horse barely smiles and says, "Would you?" That line has echoed around in my head since I saw that movie. At 40, the chances of becoming a well known comic are pretty slim. But it's the only thing I truly know how to do. It's the only thing I am any good at. It's the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. So maybe I am already beat and I am just too stupid or too much in denial to admit that its over for me. I could live in a nicer place. I could look for a better day job. I could hang up the dream and be a happy productive member of society. Right? When I think this thought I know that it is just a rationalization. Nothing more. When I ride the bus in the morning sometimes, I look around at the people dressed in suits and clutching their coffee. They already look defeated before even steeping foot inside the places where they work. I understand that the vast majority of us will never get the chance to live out our dreams. But looking around at the people on the bus, well, I don't know if they ever took a shot or if they ever thought it was time to just quit and get a "real" job, but I would rather keep living my life as if I haven't been defeated yet rather than join this somber army of those who did the realistic thing with their lives.
I have a lot of anger bottled up inside me. Anger for a system that blindly hands out opportunities to youth rather than talent. Anger that contact from the X still rattles me so much. Anger that any peace with comedy still eludes me after all these years. Anger, it seems is driving this latest anxiety attack. I was OK with the results of Last Comic Standing. I really was. Of course I wished I had advanced. Just the tiny bit of screen time I had got me e-mails from people all over the planet. All over the planet!
Almost everyone told me I was robbed. Well, no. Nothing was taken from me and the exposure was nice. it's that I wanted more. There was no sudden rush from Bookers or managers. So, for the millionth time I ask, what is it I have to do to get attention? And really, it doesn't matter. It really doesn't. My petty wishes for fame are nothing compared to the suffering around the world. It seems silly, selfish even to be pissed about this. The thing is, without a larger measure of fame no ones career can move forward in this biz. I have felt stuck for a while now. That next level that next steep is so close. It's like a weight above my head. I can feel it. It's just that now I will be 40 soon and all this was how I felt at 30. I think thats what started this particular attack, age. Right before my chest went fuzzy with those pin pricks I thought, in 10 years I will be 50. Boom. Thats where it started. Because the thing is, I am like an addict. I can't stop doing comedy and yet I wonder if it is the most rational thing for a man my age to keep doing. I certainly don't feel like an adult. Friends are married, having babies, going back to school, enjoying relationships, moving into bigger places or new towns and here I am, sitting up in bed at night, alone and freaking out because I have poured so much of my life into a thing that could never offer any promises in the first place. That makes me think of the X. Was she my last chance at anything like happiness with another human? Fuck, I hope not. How can you find happiness with a partner who cheated on you once and lied to you a second time after you got back together? You can't.
So there I am, sitting up in bed crushed on all sides by silence feeling alone, missing a girl who broke my heart twice and questioning my sanity for still thinking that I could have a career like any of the people I see on TV. Yeah. That's a pretty good anxiety attack.