I assumed once I finished chemotherapy I'd be OK. I thought that I'd get back to my life, my work, dating. Anxiety? Depression? Bitch, please! I rid myself of cancer, get outta my way, I got some livin' to do!
I was wrong.
I don't see my car. I know I parked it here, why don't I see it? It's gone, I know it's gone. It's probably been towed because of my shitty luck. At least insurance will cover if it's stolen. It feels like my heart is going to explode, it's beating so fast. I'm sweating. When I click the lock button on my keys I hear the car honk, but I don't see the car. I'm getting dizzy, tiny blotches of light are blinding me. Honk-Honk. Could my keys be making another car honk? Honk-Honk. Here it is, I found it, so why am I not calm? Why am I still shaking? I can't see to drive. Who am I?
Panic attack. That's what that was. What did people call panic attacks before modern psychiatry? A stressful afternoon?
I started seeing a psychiatrist. I put off seeing one after chemo because I was so eager to get to that livin' I mentioned before. Problem was, I didn't know how to get back to the life I had because I couldn't remember it. Don't worry, I still love Hillary Clinton and all, but like, I couldn't relate to people post-cancer like I did before the Big Show. It was like, now there is a cancer cloud hovering over my head with a constant chance of a Hurricane Sandy. I didn't remember my umbrella. Or which evacuation zone I was in!! Zone A? Do I leave? God damn.
I apologize for that last natural disaster metaphor, it sounded good in my head when I wrote it. Minutes later I'm having some new sounds in my head, though. I'm going to blame it on Lexapro, the anti-anxiety medication my psychiatrist has me on. No more weather metaphors, I promise.
I simplified my life. I focused on writing my book proposal (get cancer, write a memoir, right?). I lost myself in books. If reading is sexy, then I'm Fabio. Not Fabio, that's a bad example, he's not sexy. Brad Pitt? That hair though! I don't know. I'm sorry, I don't know sexy. I read Joan Didion, John Irving, James Baldwin, Augusten Burroughs, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Michael Cunningham, Joseph Mitchell, Sarah Vowell (click their names and buy their books, because, duh, reading is sexy). I also read People magazine, but clearly not well enough since I can't think of anyone sexier than Fabio.
Running with my friend was not a good idea. Sure, I'm a runner, but the bleomycin drug I got as part of my chemo fucked with my lungs. Or did it? Am I using this as an excuse because I'm a fat ass now? He's running so fast. He hates me. He thinks I'm too slow. I'm slowing him down. I wonder if my other friends think I'm slowing them down too? He's also running with his shirt off. There's no way I'd do that. The sight of that much jigging could cause passerby's to think there was an earthquake. Why can't I keep up with him? I used to be able to. Why can't I be normal?
Lexapro helped with the panic attacks, but the depression creeps through. I've lost interest in eating regularly, avoid social occasions, and create situations in my head that aren't there (like my friend hating me because of my Kirstie Alley jogging pace). My psychiatrist prescribed Wellbutrin. My campaign to be Mayor of Crazy Town is coming along nicely.
If there's ever a place it's OK to be depressed it's at a stand up comedy show. Performing helps. It doesn't make me clinically better, but it helps process tough emotional thoughts (the possibility of public humiliation is nothing compared to thinking of death all the time). Staying on brand, my set is almost all cancer. I'm attempting to be honest while at the same time take a very serious subject and make it relatable in a humorous way. Here's a joke that consistently gets laughs:
Once you get cancer, all of a sudden everybody becomes an expert on juicing.
Why does this work? Hell if I know. But I think it's because everybody knows that annoying person that won't shut the fuck up about the benefits of juicing. Usually this is someone people collectively hate (and who likely doesn't eat gluten). These people have good intentions, but really, get away from me, you know what I'm saying? Do you realize how much juice I would need to drink in order to rid myself of the cancer in my body?
So I make cancer relatable, but not in the typical, "I'm a survivor, fighting Goliath with my bare hands while being followed by an IV pole filled with poisonous drugs," sort of way. No, I'm not that person. I'd rather make you laugh. And if it that means I need to be a little depressed, then so be it.
I shouldn't be interested in him. Sure, he's cute, but it's more than that. OK, he's really cute. Like, "hawt" levels of cute. And I'm, well, I struggle with adult acne. But he's also really sweet. But there's this cancer thing. There's no way he'll be interested in me. Crazy cancery me. Hey, that has a ring to it. "Crazy Cancery Me," maybe he'll find this cute. I should text it to him. Probably not. Maybe I should send him a dick pic instead?
Because I like to torture myself, at the height of chemo I decided to browse through OkCupid. Even though I could barely lift my head, I still figured I should keep my love options open. I came across his profile. He's a comic I met years ago. He retweets me sometimes, we "Like" stuff on the Facepage, but that's it. I thought he was cute when we first met. What's that? Why am I crying? Why am I all of a sudden sad? Oh, that's right, because I was at chemo and couldn't lift my mother-fucking head, let alone think about going on a date with @FunnySexyComicBoy (this isn't his Twitter handle, but should be).
And now here I am, better. Or "better." Because, like, I won that Crazy Town Mayoral election, so I'm not totally all there. But I can keep my head up, and he seems interested. Or does he? I don't know. My psychiatrist says I should be emotionally honest. Fine.
"Listen, I'm crushing on you hard right now," I tell him on his surprisingly comfortable leather couch (I know, leather!), followed by, "and that's probably not a good thing." I threw this last bit in to soften the eventual rejection.
He didn't reject me, but he also didn't embrace the idea either, so basically it's a rejection. At least that's how I'm considering it on Twitter. "I'm damaged. But u are amazing," he texts. Saying "I'm damaged," to somebody with cancer is like saying, "Nobody sees me," to a blind person.
He's not into me, or at least not yet. I'm totally into him, at least for now. Or at least I think I am. Could part of me, possibly the Mayor of Crazy Town part of me, secretly want him to be into me to vindicate all that I couldn't have during chemo? What is it about having a crush on someone that can make you both the happiest and saddest person in the span of an afternoon? Or is this just the crazy in my head talking? Is it possible that I'm putting the weight of my cancer into this crush?
The Wellbutrin is making me write like I'm Carrie from Sex and the City.
I'm at the bar with friends. It's a nice time. I know most everyone here. Why do I feel like people are talking around me? As if I'm floating through the bar, oblivious to everyone. But I also don't want the attention. I don't know what to do with it. I lie and say I have to go to the restroom in order to end a conversation. I can't look at my reflection in the mirror. I look everywhere but the mirror. I know if I look at myself I'll start to cry. I can't face myself, I don't know that person looking back at me. I have a face for radio.
I'm unstable. It's uncomfortable for somebody like me, somebody that never before showed great emotion, to feel this way. My friend Chadwick (a fantastic writer, check him out) said, "I've never seen you this vulnerable before. It's honest." I'm vulnerably honest. I'm banking on this honesty to get me through this rough patch. After cancer, I have nothing left to lose but this life, and I am ready to get livin', honestly. Every day this past year, it felt like life rained on me. Now it feels like maybe it won't. I, H. Alan Scott, am being honest with my feelings! I have a crush on @FunnySexyComicBoy, and the sheer fact I'm typing this sentence (after having told him I was going to type this sentence -- META) makes me feel like maybe I'm almost out of the woods -- maybe the sky is clearing a little bit. Maybe -- just maybe -- the rain will stop. And if it doesn't, I'll be OK. At least it's not a tumor.
I'm sorry, I lied; I had to do another weather metaphor. Sue me (but don't, I've got serious medical debt).
You might like my latest video, "Cancer House Guest":