1. Panic Attacks
How this started happening, I do not know, but it sucks. Kicking back around the L-couch turned into a heart-pounding debate on whether or not I was going to die. The feeling usually passed after thirty minutes or so, but it still wasn’t worth it. Everyone else seemed fine; they were talking, laughing, and meanwhile I’d just drink cups of water, try to normalize my body language, and wait for the panic phase to pass. I tried to be unfazed but it never worked. I crumbled, and the little bit of game I did have faded.
2. Everything Felt Fake
Everyone responds differently, yet for some reason smoking would send me into another world completely. I know this is usually a welcomed side effect, but as someone who’s already introverted it pulled me further into my head and I’d walk around like an alien or third-person narrator or overly analytical observational comedian whose only audience was myself, struggling to engage in ordinary human interaction and staring at text messages for twenty minutes thinking of the right way to respond. Even TV shows I normally watched for laughs were ruined; I’d laugh more at their attempts at humor and question why I ever thought they were funny.
This was all fine while I was in high school with a car full of people so baked we’d only get halfway through our Taco Bell order before we’d give up and drive off out of sheer embarrassment, but as an adult I can’t indulge in these sharp reality shifts. It’s too dangerous. I need to keep my head down, commit to something without question, and address my decisions and emotions when I’m 45. I can’t keep shifting into third-person and staying “stuck” like some whiny millennial consumed by feckless ennui until I’m so old I have to start calling my “quarter-life crisis” a “mid-life crisis” while still trying to answer the undying question of “What do I want to do with my life?” It’s not healthy, and it’s certainly not American.
3. Hyper Self-Consciousness
I hated being in high in public because I assumed everyone knew, which again, is rather common, but it was worse for me because my eyes barely open as it is and almost shut completely when I’m high.
Every interaction was bent toward awkwardness. I’d walk past a mom with her child and feel a sinking feeling of shame, like I was setting a terrible example for her children in the two seconds we passed each other. The worst was being high at Disneyland with my friends, walking around with nearly constant self-conscious anxiety when this tuxedo-clad, mustachioed, top-hat-wielding magician outside the “Magic Shoppe” stopped me.
“Hey, hold on there!” he fanned out some cards and offered them to me. “Pick a card for me.”
The request released a flood of adrenaline, priming my “fight or flight” instincts with the solution: Run away. My friends stood in a row behind me as a respectable family with a double stroller pulled alongside to watch.
“What?” I knew what he said I just needed time to think of a reasonable way to say “No” to this.
“Pick a card, any card…please.” His smile coupled with a stern insistence. God dammit. I drew a card from the deck and showed everyone behind me, avoiding eye contact with the family and growing crowd of bystanders. I handed the card back and he shuffled the deck.
He drew a card from the middle, “Is this your card?” Wow, I forgot to look at my own card.
“Yeah, that’s it…thanks!” faking surprise. My friends burst out laughing and the little kids behind let out a chorus of “Nooooooo!”
“I mean, no, that’s not my card,” I wiped the sweat from my forehead. The crowd behind me had grown to at least twenty.
The magician took off his top hat and emptied a card into his hand, “Then this must be your card, right?”
“That’s it! Wow, thanks.” I took a half step and my friends laughed even harder, which probably made it clear to the rest of the crowd that we were lit, and again the little kids screamed, “Noooooooo!” This guy had to be fucking with me.
“You don’t remember your own card? It wasn’t that long ago, was it?” he projected to the audience behind me. The magician had turned comedian at my expense. I knew my face was beet-red. My pulse thudded against my eardrums. I had to get out of there.
“No, I don’t remember, I’m sorry, I have to go, I’m really sorry,” I walked straight past him toward the bathroom on the corner of the street, staring at my feet. It was the only way to avoid the crowd who’d joined my friends in laughter.
“Dude! Where are you going!?” Each word trailed off a bit more as the Doppler effect told me they were at least fifty feet away.
“Sir!…SIR! Please stop.”
I could hear the magician’s dress shoes smack the pavement closer and closer. If I focused hard enough on the zigzagging pattern of cobblestone rushing beneath my feet he’d disappear, I thought.
This was a nightmare. He grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. I saw my friends holding each other up and one of them lay flat on his back clutching his stomach in laughter. The crowd hadn’t budged, some of them smiled and pointed at me,
“Sir, the card is on the bottom of your shoe,” he held back his laughter and caught his breath, “relax, man, you did great.”