Headphones Are My Sunglasses

Wendy Williams says that if you don't want to talk to people out in public you should throw on sunglasses and move about your day. Apparently sunglasses, when worn indoors, are the international symbol for "don't talk to me."  When it comes to wearing sunglasses, I know it's unconventional, but I have trouble with the way the world looks through them. Like, literally. So, instead of sunglasses, I throw on a pair on conspicuous headphones, and blast music into my ears to shut out the world. It may seem, on the surface, to be isolating, or even rude, but the reason I do it has more to do with mental health than being a dick. (Even though there very much a dick version of me, and her name is "Angry Billie.")

Anxiety and I have been well acquainted ever since my early 20s, when, for no reason in particular, I started suffering from intense and constant panic attacks. Those ebbed into occasional panic attacks, and then general anxiety, and then, after I went off of birth control, WHOOSH, it seemed to all but vanish. Until...and, of course, there was an until...I had my daughter.

Along with welcoming my beautiful, very spirited daughter, The Bird, I also got a heaping helping of postpartum anxiety which consistently kicked my ever-loving ass on and off for more than two years. Since then, I have overhauled myself in an effort to kick anxiety's ever-loving ass, and (mostly) won. And as my own problems cleared, I realized The Bird had some of her own issues, one of which is that she hates when strangers looked at her in public.

One day I said to her, "Don't look at them. You can just pretend they don't exist." Sound advice, I thought, and it seemed to help. Another time, I handed her a pair of headphones so she could do just that. It made her more comfortable, and everyone was happy. AMEN.

Then, on New Years Eve this year, for some stupid reason, I thought that the grocery store wouldn't be busy and planned a week's worth of shopping for that moment in time. GAR. It was so crowded that I had a sudden, familiar flush of anxiety. The volume of people in the store, for me, was like absorbing an energy bomb. It was frenetic, and I could feel the movement of all the people in their frantic states of trying to just get out and fast. The thought in my head was, "I am never going to make it through this trip without getting a panic attack."

In an effort to calm myself, I took a deep breath, and between the exhalation and inhalation I had a moment of divine clarity. I thought, "If I were The Bird,  what would I tell me to do?" And I reached into my purse, grabbed my headphones, put on my favorite playlist, and I ROCKED THAT MOTHERFUCKER OUT. I mean, realllllly. I got all my shopping done, and I noticed, miraculously, that my music kept my vibe in check. It prevented me absorbing the collective energy and instead, created my own. In fact, by the time I left the store, I actually felt better than when I went it.

It was a revelation.

Sometimes being in public is just hard for me. Interacting with people when I am buzzing and ripe with anxiety is challenging. While sunglasses work well for resting bitch face and puffy eyes, they don't shut out the world the way a set of headphones does. So when you see me, rocking through the aisles of the local grocery, and I smile at you with my wireless headphones blaring music, it's my way of vibe-checking myself and getting through my day. I will offer you a smile, but the headphones say clearly, "I am not down to talk today." They are my proverbial sunglasses.