-Or … 

Note: This entry is long and makes little sense. If you read even a little, thanks. You are a champion.
Signed: E

You were never meant to see
All those things inside of me
Now that you’ve gone away
I’m just tryin’ to find my way…

~ Find My Way; Nine Inch Nails

I couldn’t find you a blanket or a miner’s hat, but I brought you hot chocolate.

~ El

The roar of the crowd was unreal, and for a moment there I felt like a part of it.

The reason I say for a moment” is because that moment was shattered about one song later when I realized that I really should have spent the last 17 days of October listening through my entire backlog of Nine Inch Nails that had been given to me a year prior. Granted, I didn’t have everything – not even El or D could claim that – but I was lost enough that it gave me some time to think.

Amidst the lights and the noise and the beer, I was possibly having an existential crisis. At a concert. Oh what fun.

But let’s back track, because this is a Creative Non-Fiction piece, and I do have to provide you some anchoring details so that you don’t get lost.

I suppose the relevant background information includes the following; I have anxiety and what I would call mid-range panic. Mid-range panic is a term El coined to mean “a sustained state of panic that lasts for more than a few hours.” This is an issue that, if I am honest with myself, probably started in middle school or early high school, and I am only just now getting help with.

Around October 18th, the day I went to this concert with El and D, I was undergoing a two week long self-diagnostic, because a friend of mine had pointed out that “[I] seemed sad lately,” and, though I thought I was fine, I decided it would be best if I took a look at my ‘standard fear.’ (Standard Fear is the buzzing of anxiety that always exists in the background of my life.) On the whole, I hadn’t found anything new – I had anxiety and it was being it’s standard, anxious self. In fact, for the most part, I felt comfortable in my own skin, which is not a feeling I experience very often.

For example, while driving up to Northern Virginia, I didn’t feel the usual clawing feeling in my chest, most probably because, on the tree-lined promenade that is interstate 81, I felt excitement. I was going to a concert with two of my closest friends, and we were singing duets to old, pseudo-metal songs and ghost story ballads, watching the fall-clothed mountains give way to overdeveloped XBurbia.

But, as the day wore on, I felt this strange disconnect with everything that was happening. As we walked through the new mammal exhibits at the Natural History Museum to kill time, I felt like I was walking in isolation, watching a pair of people I knew once make conversation. I felt like I had run out of things to say and, simultaneously, like what I had to say didn’t matter.

This feeling eased as we sat down for dinner at Teaism on 8th street in the Penn Quarter. The cozy basement dining room was filled to the brim with people. D, El, and I began chatting idly about our excitement and the food we had ordered. D had accidentally ordered something other than what he had intended to, so there was much trading of food between the three of us (though I didn’t share as much of mine because I had ordered a soup). We left after about half an hour (after lamenting the loss of the table next to us, who had been talking about D&D) and emerged into the distinctly warm DC air.

At this point, I had staved off full panic (regarding my disconnect) by reminding myself that I would not have been invited on this trip, yea those many months ago, if I had not been wanted on this trip.

Full disclosure: before college, I never had friends who were straight with me. I was never really reassured of friendships and such, and I would frequently get invited along on trips and to parties where I, for the most part, was not welcome. I felt this, and this has lead to an immense self-doubt and feeling that I am never going to be good enough for other people.

During the wait for the opening band (God Speed You Black Emperor, or ‘trance-industrial-lullabye’) the feeling of disconnect came back. D and El, for excellent and understandable reasons, had become much closer over the course of the semester, and spent most of the wait wrapped in their own conversation, with their own inside jokes, and I…sat in silence. I recognize now that this was not the correct way to handle things, but I felt that, if I interrupted, it would be akin to a child whining “Pay attention to me, you are supposed to be paying attention to me!!!” I made a few jokes, which fell flat as my jokes usually do, and so I resigned myself to the ‘Auxiliary Friend’ role.

It would be prudent to point out here that I did, in fact, talk to D and El, it’s just that, in my memory, everything I said was stupid and not worth remembering.

This feeling (of being-left-out-but-understanding-why, which is a tad rough) continued through what I would describe as a 45-minute outro, or the soundtrack to the end of your sad, institutionalized life. The excitement of seeing Nine Inch Nails, however, slowly crept back into us, and I pushed my discomfort to the deep, dark hole where I push most of my problems.

The lights went down again and the first few notes of Copy of A hit our ears. The roar of the crowd was unreal, and for a moment there I felt like a part of it. I sang along, begrudgingly sitting because we were in a section of we-shall-not-stand fans, and got pumped.

And then, they played 1,000,000 – a fact that, at the time, was yelled at me by D – and I lost everything. I lost the feeling of belonging in the crowd, I lost the connection with El and D, I lost hold of the one thing that was keeping me from falling to that previously mentioned deep, dark hole. Amidst the lights and the noise and the beer, I was most definitely having an existential crisis.

I eventually figured out the chorus, and sang along, which calmed me down quite a bit. I had moments of connection, like when El and I shouted the All Time Low lyrics at each other, or when we jumped up for Hand That Feeds. I felt adrenaline and excitement and joy, but I didn’t feel that usual sense of ‘yes, this is where I should be’ that I get at concerts.

The concert ended, I sat awkwardly next to a lady on the train who had clearly been hoping I would sit somewhere else, and for the rest of the weekend I felt wrong. Out of place. We drove home and it felt wrong. A Creeping Fear had seized me, and I stared it in the face.

“You are useless,” it said. “You are useless and unwanted.”

I lived with this fear for a week and a half, though I was loathed to outwardly express it. I just sat back, put a Nine Inch Nails playlist on repeat, and tried to find my lost-connection with my friends. There were lovely moments in the mix, too, like laughing into the night with El over our ‘hello-there-freaky’ attitude towards the NIN tag on Tumblr. But, towards the end of Tuesday the following week, I hit an emotional wall, and I was confused.

I hit an emotional wall because of that moment at the concert. Lights were flashing, the music was loud, NIN was amazing, and I watched my friendships (or, at least, my hold on those friendships) slip from my grasp. I was floating in a massive crowd of noise and light and I was losing my friends and I could not understand why I felt that way. I felt myself retreat into myself (frightening how easy that is for me). 

So I did something I do not usually do; I reached out, caught someone (El) by the arm and asked if I could talk to them. They told me that I mattered, and that they cared for me and I didn’t know what to do with that.

An Important Quote: ” I’ve always said that what Trent really needs is a blanky and a hot chocolate with marshmallows. He doesn’t need another hole to crawl into. I think somebody should give him one of those little hard hats with a miner’s light on it, so when he gets lost in a dark hole, he can find his way out.”

-Tori Amos on Trent Reznor

The thing is that I knew El meant what she said, I just could not process it. The knowledge that she cared, however, made me feel a bit more secure. I have the words she gave me (because that is how I think of compliments) written down in one of my notebooks, there for when I need it. I am writing this story down, too, so it is there when I need it.

This long, ridiculous blog post, is an attempt to get at the heart of that initial conversation, because I think better when I write and, honestly, I am intimidated by the idea of telling people this. Sometimes I can work through this on my own, but most of the time I can’t, and I think being open and honest about it, even if it’s just in writing, is a step towards helping me get better.

And there is no witty one-liner I can end this on, really, no silver lining except that I am getting help. I’m starting to pick up the pieces and start over.