The Pedant just called me for a chat while on his way to a friend’s place. After a bit of conversation, he said he should get going so as to call said friend and tell him he was almost there. I said that I, too, should get going because I have a follow-up appointment with that dietician tomorrow. And I mentioned I was nervous about it.
“You know she’s going to be talking about what you put in your mouth, not trying to put things in your mouth, right?”
“Yeah, obviously. But for the past three weeks I’ve been having to write down everything I eat, and I’ve been eating pretty much the same things every day, and I feel like she’s probably going to tell me to be more varied with it. You’re supposed to eat a wide range of things as part of a healthy diet. But that is…not a thing I can do. I just straight-up don’t have the energy for that kind of constant decision-making. I need to be able to grocery shop and cook on autopilot because having to constantly decide what to eat would drain my resources too much. And I’m afraid she’s gonna give me a hard time about that.”
“You know you’ve got an actual medical issue that you can’t help, right?”
“You know that for my entire life when I’ve told people I can’t do something because anxiety, they’ve said ‘well can you like…try harder?’, right?”
The Pedant immediately and decisively said, “Tell her that your diet is limited by two factors. The first is that there’s a whole range of foods that make you sick. The second is that you don’t have a lot of money. You could even tell her that you can’t afford to eat anything different until your next paycheque comes in.”
“Actually, yeah. The money thing is also a big factor here.”
“Exactly. So keep those two reasons uppermost in your mind. Probably you won’t even have to get into it with her about the anxiety.”
“Yes, okay. Good.”
“If she doesn’t end up bringing up the variety issue, though, you know I’ll be laughing.”
“Yeah. She might not bring it up. It’s the nature of my anxiety that I want to feel prepared for everything all the time, so I think about every possible outcome of everything ever. Which bogs down my brain’s CPU, which leaves me with no energy to make decisions about what to eat…”
“Bus rides must be hell for you,” The Pedant said.
“Everything’s hell for me,” I said, surprised that he hadn’t already figured that out.
The Pedant said that he’d specified bus rides because other countries have had terrorist attacks on public transit, kind of out of the blue. He talked about some Syrian gas bomb or something. He said sometimes when he’s on a bus it occurs to him that maybe something like that could happen all of a sudden.
“Maybe I think about that sort of stuff in a very general way,” I said. “It’s probably why I have a hard time leaving the house sometimes. But mostly I worry about specific, interpersonal things that could happen to me.”
“Well, think of it this way: which is worse, interpersonal awkwardness or being dosed with [name-I-didn’t-catch] gas?”
“Bear in mind, the gas is immediately fatal.”
“Oh,” I said, instantly. “The interpersonal stuff is worse, then. Like, obviously.”
At the other end of the line The Pedant made a tiny glottal sound, like he was about to say something but then got stymied for words and nothing came out. Just his throat opening and closing. He clearly didn’t expect this answer.
I said, “Well, if I die instantly I’m just gone. With the interpersonal stuff I have to live through it and then know that the other person will remember whatever weird thing I did forever.”
“If you die instantly you’ll leave behind two cats who don’t know how to use a can opener. And anyway, people have the memory span of goldfish or worse. They don’t remember weirdness for as long as you think they do.”
And then he really did have to go.
I made sure not to thank him for his guidance, since he has explicitly told me he doesn’t want me to. But I am thankful. The Pedant just has such a matter-of-fact way of breaking things down so they don’t sound scary anymore, and he gives me a combo of practical tips for dealing with people and reminders that people aren’t usually as malicious or powerful as AssholeBrain would have me believe.
And I’ve been thinking about his insistence that thank-yous are “a nuisance.” That was a foreign concept to me at first but then I remembered how much it irks me when I tell him he’s hot or beautiful or fuckable and he’s like “thanks, that’s very kind of you.” No it’s not! Telling him mushy things is how I express love. I’m not actively trying to be nice to him, I’m just doing what I do. And it strikes me that this may be exactly what it is with him and his anti-anxiety measures. He expresses love through helping people – this much is obvious to me. So maybe it feels jarring and misplaced to him that I should essentially thank him for telling me he loves me.
The more I think about this, the more perfect it is. In the past I’ve felt just sickeningly grateful to partners for helping me through anxiety issues. I felt beholden to them, and therefore unequal to them (and I think they may have liked that…). The Pedant, meanwhile, seems to think that talking me down from ledges is just the obvious thing you do when a partner is freaking out. Obvious and simple and no big deal. Just standard relationship maintenance, maybe. And maybe he’s right.
I’m going to experiment a bit with the idea that I deserve support from the people I love.