Welcome back team! If you need a refresher - Summer finally came clean, Micah wasn't exactly thrilled. Word spread and the entire band knows what she did. Micah is chummy with Summer's band rival Kaila again. The whole band just found out that Summer has alopecia.
When I wake up for rehearsal on Saturday morning, I have no intention of actually going to rehearsal.
After I got home last night, I looked bad enough that my mom made me a bowl of soup and sent me straight to bed. Objectively speaking, I know I'm not actually sick. I do feel marginally better today, but the thought of having to see everyone all over again, especially Micah and Kaila, is enough to make my stomach start churning.
There's a part of me that knows Bryn and Katya are right, that it's not that big of a deal that I don't have hair and everyone knows. I'm not contagious. There's nothing really wrong with me.
But it's the stares. The whispers. I can't do it. I feel so claustrophobic and closed in, and I can't handle it.
So when my mom comes in to check on me and see if I'm ready for rehearsal, I groan.
"Are you feeling any better, sweetie?" She sits down at the foot of my bed.
"A little," I don't want to lie to my mom.
"Do you want to try rehearsal today or should I call Mr. Murphy?'
"Maybe you should call him. I don't want to bring anyone down."
"That's a good idea. I don't want you getting sicker if you're coming down with something. You really didn't look good last night." She stands up. "I'll give him a call. You rest, and I'll come check on you in a little while, okay?"
"Thanks mom." Hopefully she doesn't hear the lump growing in my throat. There's no real reason for me to break down crying. I just appreciate the blanket compassion even though she has no idea what's really going on. I have a good mom.
Now that I'm awake, no amount of tossing and turning will allow me to fall asleep again, which is a shame because sleeping is the only way I can turn off my brain.
As the clock slowly ticks towards when rehearsal is starting, I wonder if anyone notices I'm not there and if they speculate about where I am. I probably should have sucked it up and gone, because I'm sure everything will be worse now come Monday. I'm sure people are thinking I'm not there because of my hair, or I’m not there because of whatever terrible illness I have that made me have no hair, or I’m not there because I'm too afraid to face Micah and Kaila, which actually isn't too far off of the truth.
I grab my phone from my end table and turn off notifications and sound so I won't notice any messages or social media. I'm not prepared to face that today.
I try to aimlessly scroll through Buzzfeed and try to find something to distract my brain.
When that fails, I open a browser window. I start to type in what to do after you catfish someone and they find out and delete that. I type in what to do when people find out you have alopecia and delete that too.
I type one word: anxiety and press "go".
Close to a million different pages pop up. There are overviews of all of the major anxiety disorders, mental health organizations, and health sites. This was a dumb search. I don't even know where to begin.
I try: what is anxiety?
Webster dictionary tells me anxiety means worry, nervousness, or unease. I probably could have figured that out myself.
Next: does worry cause stomach aches?
Short answer, yes.
Then: do I have a stomach ulcer? Because it doesn't hurt to be sure.
It certainly feels like my stomach has been trying to eat itself for the last few weeks, and if I do have a budding stomach ulcer, that's probably something I'll need to get checked out. I read a few pages and determine that, unfortunately, this doesn't look like something I can diagnose myself with via the internet and I'd have to talk to my mom about going to the doctor.
But, if this possible stomach ulcer problem happened because I can't stop worrying for five seconds, and I'm anxious every waking hour, maybe I need something else.
I try typing in: should I see a therapist?
I click on the first article that pops up, it's essentially a checklist about whether or not you may need to see a therapist. There are eight items on the list and I can check off four - intense emotion (considering I'm nearly always on the brink of tears and can't stop worrying), stomach aches (unless it's a stomach ulcer), disconnect from activities I used to enjoy (I just missed a marching band rehearsal for the first time in my life and I'm not even mad), strained relationships (Micah. Camilla.)
So half. Does that mean I'm half okay or half crazy? The article doesn't say.
I go ahead and search: am I crazy if I have anxiety? Just for fun.
Short answer, no. Even though I feel like I'm going crazy, I'm not actually crazy. Anxiety is normal, lots of people experience anxiety or have anxiety disorders, but the degree to which I experience anxiety is not normal.
I search: how to tell my mom I need to see a therapist?
I'm not sure if this is what I need or not, but I don't want to feel this way anymore, and if a therapist can help me with that, then I'm all in. But like most things, the thought of saying the words, "mom, I've been super anxious and I can't take it anymore and I think I need to see someone about it", does nothing but rev up all of my anxiety again.
I don't want my mom to think she failed or she did something wrong or it's her fault that my brain is screwed up. I don't know why I am this way, but it's not her fault or dad's fault or anyone's fault. It's not even because of one singular event. It's not because of Micah or Kaila or Camilla or my lack of hair. It's everything.
I get up to take a shower, mulling over words I might say while the warm water falls down my back. Anxiety is normal. I'm not a freak and I'm not crazy because I get super anxious. Lots of people experience the same thing. It's okay to ask for help.
I practice a few lines in the mirror before I go back to my bed. I decide the best, and least awkward opportunity to have this discussion will be the next time my mom comes in to check on me. When she asks how I'm feeling, I'll just be honest. I'll tell her how I'm feeling. I can be honest.
Like clock-work, my mom comes in to check on me around lunch time. She knocks lightly on my door first, I guess to make sure she wouldn't wake me up if I were sleeping.
She opens the door a crack. "Are you awake?"
I roll over and face her. I can do this. "Yeah."
She sits down on the edge of my bed again and feels my forehead. "How are you feeling? Do you need me to get you anything?"
Here we go.
"I'm feeling a little better," I sit up and rest my back against the headboard to prove it. "But I did have a question for you." Calm down heartbeat.
Say it Summer. Say it. I need to talk to a professional. Spit it out. "I think part of why I haven't been feeling well lately is because I've been really anxious this term."
My mom stares at me and I will myself to ignore my stomach churning and my heart thumping so hard I swear I can see it coming out of my chest. "I've been having a lot of really bad stomach aches and I feel worried all the time and I don't know why. And I was wondering if maybe we could find someone for me to talk to. Like...a professional?" A lump lodges itself in my throat.
I can't believe I just said all of that.
I can't gauge my mom's reaction. She doesn't look horrified or even sad, more thoughtful. Pensive.
She gives my hand a little squeeze and says, "of course we can."
"Thank you," my voice cracks and she gives me a hug.
"I just want you to be happy, and I'm sorry I didn't know."
"It's okay. Thank you."
Anxiety is still trying to eat me alive from my stomach out, my having my mom on board and knowing that my mom knows sends a wave of relief. Like maybe I can finally breathe again.
Group chat - Bryn, Katya, Summer
Bryn: Where are you?????
Bryn: Taylor said you're sick. Are you okay? Can I come over after rehearsal?
Katya: Literally ignore Kaila and Micah. They weren't even talking to each other today. People aren't even talking about it today either. I hope you feel better.
Bryn: Ignoring Kaila out of solidarity.
Katya: Ignoring Micah out of solidarity.
Katya: If you're sleeping or something you better fill us in later.
Bryn: WE LOVE YOU <3
Welcome to Chat With Me!
Saturday, 04:19PM - You're chatting with: MICAH TURNER.
Micah (04:19PM): Hey Summer
Micah (04:20PM): I just got home from rehearsal. Are you okay? I saw you leave early last night and then you weren't here today
Micah (04:22PM): You probably won't believe me when I say this, but I didn't start the rumor about your alopecia. Despite everything, I hope you know I wouldn't do something like that.
Micah (04:23PM): And I know I said some things, but we should talk. Do you have any time today or tomorrow maybe?
My heart stops beating when his name appears on my phone screen. I don't breathe for ten seconds.
A wave of shock, euphoria, confusion washes over me and my hands immediately start to tremble. It's been exactly two weeks since Micah said don't ever talk to me or message me again. I'd already resolved that this is how things are going to be and I'm just going to have to be okay that he's not going to be a part of my life.
I don't know what to process first, the fact that he didn't spread the rumor or the fact that he wants to talk.
Talk. About what?
It's a small comfort to know he didn't tell people about my alopecia, but he told people about Anna Blackwell in the first place. He didn't dispute that.
I don't need to consult with my friends or with May to know that no matter what they say, I'm going to agree to meet up and talk with Micah. I guess at the very least it'll be closure, but I also need to know what he wants to say.
Summer (04:58PM): Hey
Summer (04:58PM): The pavilion by the playground at the park close to the school? Tomorrow at 12?
Micah (05:04PM): See you then.