Celia Kramer is a writer living with debilitating anxiety. In her weekly column, Dread Journal, Celia will write about the horrible and hilarious world of fear, dread, paranoia, phobias, panic attacks, and trying to function as a halfway normal person. Some names and inconsequential details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people in her life.
When I envisioned myself finding the person I’d spend my life with, well, first I pictured myself being 45 and having slept with half of the Eastern Seaboard. I’m the type of person who has to try lots of different options and then agonize for years over them before making a decision. I assumed I needed to be with someone as neurotic as me, because I sometimes I have trouble relating to people who don’t experience anxiety. More than that, I hate that I am this way, and why would anybody else whose life is anxiety-free invite me into it? But I’ve learned that there’s a critical flaw in my logic here: it assumes that all I am is anxiety. This is obviously not the case, and I can’t allow myself to be defined by one negative quality. Adolf Hitler was an excellent painter.
I first met Louis less than twenty minutes after having a panic attack in my friend Leslie’s car. Actually, Leslie and I both had simultaneous panic attacks, pulled over with the hazards on in Brentwood, because Leslie and I had just been accosted by a guy waving a gun in our faces in a gas station. We both hyperventilated in tandem and told each other to calm down, we were okay, we didn’t die. We needed some place to cool down, so she called her friend Louis who lived in the area, and asked him if we could come over and just sit in silence and possibly hug each other. We were seventeen.
We drove the five minutes to Louis’ house, even though he told Leslie that he was going out and could only hang out for a few minutes. When we got there, he was sitting on his front stoop. His legs looked comically elongated, like he couldn’t possibly fit in a room or compact car. Leslie introduced us and we calmed down by giving him shit for leaving us in our state to go see a movie. When I am anxious and meeting someone new, I have a habit of tending towards aggressive. I think I was also trying to flirt, which manifested itself as bullying.
Leslie and I ended up taking a calming drive once and Louis went to his movie, suggesting that we all meet up later. After an extremely convoluted night involving plans with a third friend, we ended up back at Louis’ house with the intention of teaching Leslie how to ride a bike. Leslie dropped me off to go park her car, and disappeared for thirty minutes, later claiming that she noticed something between Louis and me and wanted to force us to interact, as she knew I’d be too shy otherwise. He did have a clarinet on his bed that he offered to show me, which I hoped was a euphemism for his penis.
Leslie finally came back, and by this point, I was smitten with this Seth Cohen minus the visible neuroses-type. When he offered to drive me home since Leslie lived all the way on the other side of town, I shyly accepted and thought that maybe I’d even get some over the pants action on the ride home. I know that I sound like a creepy lecher, but mashing my face and body against the nearest person was a way I coped with my crippling anxiety as a teen. Therapy had more long term benefits but this was more fun.
Exactly nothing sexual happened on the way home, which was fine because I was too moony to know how to operate my body. I also couldn’t have been less sexy—I was what could conservatively be described as a dweeb. I started calculating all of the ways I could possibly screw things up with this adorable dude who laughed at my creepy jokes and made me feel good nerves. This is a feeling I have only ever experienced around people I want to do sex stuff to.