There are two things that’s plagued me for the last month: anxiety and Pete Davidson.
One’s given me rashes, the other has led me down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos (I won’t tell you which is which). Both are equally stupefying to me.
Let’s start from the beginning. No sooner did the weather change when my body became itchy. Like, annoyingly itchy with red bumps and hot red rashes that kept me up all night and/or disturbed me throughout the day.
Around the same time, Pete Davidson suddenly became the unexpected sex symbol of our time. What was happening to my world?
I’m sure you know who Pete Davidson is. You can Google him. God knows I have. Basically, he’s a young New York guy with dark circles, big lips, and who probably smells like weed, leftover pizza, and whatever that scent is when you wear your t-shirt inside out because you don’t want to wash it. He’s a swipe left in another dimension. However, as 2020 proved, this is the dumpster fire in which we currently live. Nothing makes sense anymore.
And neither did these rashes. They happened at all times of the day. A checklist of plausible causes raced through my mind: Was it my soap? My shampoo? I tossed both; Was it avocado? Coconut? My homemade cookies? I tossed them too; Was it my cat? I didn’t toss her, but I did eye her suspiciously for days.
I can be fairly dramatic (like Billie Eilish, I, too, have a stellium in Sagittarius) so, for a brief moment — okay, for days — I seriously thought I had scabies. Realistically, this was impossible. Scabies, as my Googling rampage showed me, are more likely found in infants, senior citizens, and people who live in closed, crowded situations, none of which are remotely associated with my life as a single woman who lives alone. But my hypochondria and imaginative flair convinced my rational brain that it was possible. Anything was possible circa 2020/2021. So maybe, probably, I had scabies. Even if my symptoms didn’t fit with scabies, I was convinced it was scabies. After all, didn’t I just have in-home massage a few weeks prior from a woman who told me she had elderly clients? Maybe, just maybe, the scabies jumped from her clients to her to me. It was within the six weeks’ timeline, the timeline that Healthline said I could possibly notice the scabies. It was not only possible, it was downright probable.
I had my apartment professionally cleaned that week.
But, the rash(es) raged on. Okay, so if it wasn’t scabies, what was it? Not surprisingly paranoia soon took up residence as an unwanted squatter in my brain. All sorts of fears swirled through my brain: bed bugs, cancer, you name it. I was afraid to eat. I dropped five pounds in a week. Coincidentally, as the Pete Davidson memes increased (the bull dog one was a favourite of mine), so my did my itching. I’m not saying these two are related, although, let’s be honest, the timing is auspicious. In fact, around the same time Pete was spotted canoodling with Kim K on a Staten Island pizzeria’s rooftop, I did something I’ve only witnessed before by watching COPS, Unsolved Mysteries, and a slew of other trauma-inducing entertainment from the ‘90s that, in hindsight, was entirely inappropriate for us to watch as preteens: I called 911.
Minutes before I had dialed, I had been casually sipping my green smoothie. Moments later I was feeling that familiar itchiness. Rashes had formed across my back and underneath my breasts. Then my tongue started to feel itchy. Before I knew it, I was hyperventilating. My friend Lauren happened to call me at the same time.
“I’m going to pass out!” I screamed, and quickly hung up. Actually, I demanded she hang up first so I could dial, a move I feel Lady Gaga does on the reg.
Have you ever called 911 before? I hope you haven’t and I hope you never do. I hadn’t. It’s pretty surreal. You’re pressing those numbers, knowing why you’re doing it (you truly believe it’s an emergency situation unless you’re one of those idiots who call because you’re tripping out and think everyone’s a a human crab) and then you’re met with a soothing-yet-stern voice answers, “This is 911, how can I help you?” just like in the movies.
But that’s where the movie magic stops and reality sets in. Instead of an ambulance racing towards your house in seconds, your emergency is placed into a queue depending on level of importance, like, how close you are to death. I suppose this system makes sense from an outsiders perspective (the ones who aren’t in an emergency) but when you’re panicked, all you want is instant relief and not to feel like you’re ordering an Uber.
I wasn’t near death, however. I wasn’t even close to the top five. I was coherently conversing with the operator. In fact I even cracked a joke about being a “long time listener, first time caller.” (It’s insightful to know that I quell my anxiety by turning into Fozzie Bear).
My “waka waka” jokes obviously affected my VIP status on the “live or die” scale, bumping me below heart attack and dismemberment but hopefully above anything that would count as a killer proctologist joke. About ten minutes later (!!!), the ambulance was scheduled, and the operator swiftly informed me she was moving onto the next caller as if I was one of those guests in the opener on the Frasier Crane show.
“You can’t stay on the phone with me?” I asked, curled up in a ball in the middle of my kitchen.
“I have other people on the line,” she said. “You can call back if you get worse.” Worse? Meaning dead? She hung up, reminding me that if 2021 had a bumper sticker it would read, “no one cares.”
The good news was, I was self-aware enough to know that I was probably having a panic attack, and not anaphylactic shock, which was basically confirmed by the three paramedics who eventually showed up at my apartment. After my vitals were given the green light, I took an antihistamine and was told to “figure it out sooner than later.” In what I think was an attempt to show camaraderie, Joan, the one who seemed to be more senior than the other two, then proceeded to share with us her unfortunate allergy to Christmas trees.
“Really? I didn’t know that,” said the young male paramedic who genuinely seemed more concerned about Joan’s allergy than my own.
Nodding to the Christmas lights outside, she said, “Yeah, it’s a hell of a time of year for me.”
As I was consoling myself on the couch that at least I wasn’t allergic to Christmas trees, Lauren texted to inform me, in her own state of panic, she had called one of the contacts I had given to her in case of emergency — my ex-boyfriend who lives three hours away. I was glad the Benadryl knocked me out for the rest of the night.
In the days that followed rumours of Pete and Kim being an official “real couple” continued to grow, as did my search to figure out what was really causing these rashes. Fortunately I soon connected with an allergist. After running through the last weeks of my hellish life and symptoms with him, the allergist agreed to order a blood test but was convinced I didn’t have an allergy.
“It sounds like a reaction caused by stress,” he said. Stress? I didn’t feel stressed. I mean, sure, I did move across the country to a brand new city where I didn’t know anyone in the midst of a pandemic, quit my soul-sucking job, spend most of my time alone, pondered the meaning of my life and how I was ever going to feel normal and complete and connected again…but, no, I wasn’t stressed. That’s prime sarcasm there, friends, because of course I was experiencing stress. Who wasn’t?! But I was convincing myself for the last 18 months I was fine. I was handling it. I was meditating. I was exercising. I was Zooming with friends. I was doing okay. I mean, if anyone should feel stressed it should be Pete D — wasn’t he scared of Ye? I would be.
Life continued on. More rashes, more food was thrown out, more Pete memes.
Then the blood results came back. The moment of truth ended up being as exciting as Y2K. Besides a mild reaction to dust mites, no food allergy or cat allergy. “My advice would be to manage your stress levels,” the allergist told me over the phone.
Excuse me? You mean all of this time, these rashes were essentially coming from…me? It seemed almost unbelievable. I couldn’t be someone who suffered from chronic anxiety. Anxiety was something that happened to other people. Those with more tangible trauma, like Elizabeth Smart, the baby who fell down the well, and my childhood babysitter, who at 16, was tied up and robbed at gun point while working at our local mall’s jewelery store. That type of thing. Not to say my childhood was peachy. It wasn’t. There was alcoholism, abuse, and bullying. But those were things I had diligently scrubbed away, creating a clean outward visage that I could properly create and control. My life’s path hasn’t been free of blemishes — I’ve had breakups, job changes, emotional breakdowns, and at least six pets are dead — but it’s all been manageable. I pride myself on being resilient. I seek solutions and try to find the lessons in life. I’m a go-getter. I’m adventurous and optimistic! Just like my Sagittarius stellium!
And while that’s all well and good — I mean, it’s led me thus far in life and I have lived a a pretty blessed life — the truth is, I’ve compartmentalized my trauma. Pre-rash, I had mastered a deceivingly perfectly organized Jenga tower of my existence (oh hi Capricorn sun). One that felt safe to me. One that made sense to me. 2021 was the asshole who knocked it all down.
Underneath the so-called sturdy structure of my epidermis is some toxic shit deeply embedded in my cells that has needed to come out for a long time. I notice it now. In the way I unknowingly clench my jaw and hips and buttocks, or how I hold my breath when I experience the slightest amount of tension; when I instinctually get defensive and hurt because I feel unseen and unheard; or those flashbacks of heartbreak, loss and self-abandonment I experience waking up in the morning. Those small blink-and-you’ll-miss-them moments that makes it possible to get on with the day yet still heavily exist within me. It’s always the invisible stuff that ends up causing the most havoc. Mostly because you can’t see or touch it so it’s easy to forget it’s there. But it’s there, insidiously lurking like an undetectable virus or a New York fuckboi, waiting to spring at any moment and turn your life upside down.
It begs the question: when shit hits the fan — or a rash makes you call 911 or Pete Davidson asks you out on a date to Staten Island — what do you do? Do you revert back to old programming? Do you ignore what your gut is telling you? Or do you commit to responding to life differently?
There are things we can’t control. Like the pandemic, or how our body will release unprocessed trauma or how Pete Davidson became Gen Z’s boyfriend. It’s clear I can no longer suppress what I’ve been “handling” for the past 38 years just like I can no longer deny the appeal of a Staten Island bro. My skin is literally waving a red flag (rash) telling me to deal with my shit once and for all. Time to let go of old ways. Time to self prioritize from a more healed space. Time to be free.
Maybe this is what Kim K sees in Pete. Or maybe he just has a big dick. There are things we might never fully understand why they happen but which we can learn to accept so we can bring on the new, and find some peace.
But let it be known — I will never take a ferry ride for a slice.