Andrea Gibson – “Panic Button Collector”


I check my Facebook page 36 times a day
for the sole purpose of making sure I’ve not accidentally posted
a nude photo of myself. I reread an email 13 times
before pressing “send” to ensure I’ve not written
something in the email that could convict me of a crime. Before taking a stage,
when asked if I allow flash photography, I always want to say “no” because I’m terrified flash photography
will give me epilepsy. I know it doesn’t work like that, y’all. Still, I never eat nuts on an airplane out of fear that I will
suddenly develop a nut allergy, and if I have to asphyxiate,
I don’t want it to happen at 30,000 feet. Twice in the last two years,
I’ve been deboarded from an airplane for running screaming down the aisle
as the plane was taking off. I can’t walk through San Francisco without worrying my indigestion
is the beginning of an earthquake. I brace for tsunamis beside lakes
in Colorado– I’m not joking. The last time I saw Niagara Falls,
I couldn’t take it. It was too much much. I had to plug my ears to look at it.
I had to close my eyes to listen. Generally, I can’t do
all of my senses at the same time. They’re too much much. Like if you touch me without warning, whoever you are, it would take everything
I have to not scream. Imagine your hands are electrical sockets and I am constantly aware
that I am 70% water. It’s not that I’ve not tried
to build a dam. Ask my therapist who pays her mortgage. My cost of living
went up at five years old when I told my mother
I have to stop going to birthday parties because every time I hear a balloon pop I feel like I’m being murdered
in the heart. Last year, a balloon popped on the stage
where I was performing. I started crying
in front of the whole crowd and kept repeating the word
“loud, loud, loud.” It was super sexy. That’s what I do. I do super sexy. Like when I asked
a super cute barista 11 times, “Are you sure this is decaffeinated?” “Are you sure this is decaffeinated?
Are you sure?” “Yes.” I drink decaffeinated
and still jitter like a bug running from the bright, bright, bright. I’ve spent years of my life
wearing a tight rubber band hidden beneath my hair
so my brain could have a hug. These days when no one’s looking,
I wear a fuzzy-fitted winter hat that buttons tight beneath the chin, and I only ever wear a tie,
so when I convince myself I’m choking, my senses have something
they’re certain they could blame. As a kid, I was so certain I would die
by way of a meteor falling on my head. I’d go whole weeks
without looking at the sky because I didn’t want to witness
the coming of my own death. I started tapping the kitchen sink
seven times to build a shield. My mother started making lists
of everything I thought would kill me in hopes that if I saw my fears,
they would disappear. Bless her heart. But the first time I saw that list, I started filling salad bowls with bleach
and soaking my shoelaces overnight, so in the morning when I ironed them,
they’d be so bright. I’d be certain I had control
of how much dark could break into my life, how much jackhammer
could break into my heart. But my spine, it has always been a lasso
that could never catch my breath. I honestly can’t imagine how it would feel to walk into a room and not feel
the roof collapsing on my… No, no, no, I am not fine. Fine never tells the truth. And more than anything
I have ever been afraid of, I am terrified of lies, how they war the world,
how they sound by our tongues, how they bone dry the marrow. How did we get through high school
without being taught Dr. King? Spent two decades having panic attacks,
avoided windows, jumped at thunder. I think we are all part fight the flight,
part run for your life, part please, like, like,
like, like, like me, part can’t breathe, part scared to say you’re scared, part say it anyway. You panic button collector, you clock of beautiful ticks. You can always, always, always,
shake like a leaf on my family tree and know you belong here. You absolutely belong here and everything you feel is okay. (applause) Thanks.

19 Replies to “Andrea Gibson – “Panic Button Collector”

  1. I’ve never related to something so hard before. I don’t eat nuts on planes for the same reason. I don’t really eat on planes alone and I’ve panicked bad on flights. I’m terrified of flashing lights because I believe I have epilepsy even though I’ve never been diagnosed. My sensory overload is terrible. “It was too much much”.

  2. I was not expecting to cry like a baby but here I am. This is my daughter to a T and she is only 11 y’all 😭 This poem perfectly explained how she feels everyday…and I feel worthless that I can’t help her. On a side note, I loved the tone and delivery in this poem. She doesn’t sound like everybody else. Lately it seems like every poet I watch does the fake cry emotion where their voice shakes and they all do the deep gasping. Nothing wrong with that but they all sound the same to me. It’s refreshing to see a poet sound like themselves and give us something we can all relate to, even if it’s just a piece of it ❤️

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