23 Hours After Orlando, LA Pride May've Been The Scene Of My First Panic Attack

Man in prayer
Man in prayer

Sunday I spent the majority of the day in bed, watching the continuous coverage of the massacre that just took place in Orlando. I heard the stories of mothers searching for their missing sons, Pulse patrons unsure if their beloved were dead, alive, or injured. I watched reports evolve from "mass casualty" to "50 people are dead."

I spent... the day glued to the coverage, wanting to turn it off just as much as I needed to watch. I felt that LA Pride, which was happening not far away, would be colored a lot differently now that a gunman had unloaded untold ammunition into a gay bar because of how he felt about two men kissing. Then, to literally bring it closer to home, to read that a man had just been arrested on his way to LA Pride with explosives and ammunition -- all the feelings around being #proud were a veritable soup of conflicting thoughts and emotions.

With friends, I made the choice to go to West Hollywood. To celebrate Pride, to enjoy a friend's pre-birthday evening, and to (for lack of a better way to put it) not let the terrorists win.

That lasted for less than 10 minutes.

Below, is the text of the Facebook post I wrote sitting in the car, fighting tears, after rushing out of a nightclub.

I'm unspeakably upset with myself right now. I went to Pride in WeHo, wanting to be strong, wanting to show solidarity, and not letting hate & fear outweigh Pride...

I tweeted "Choosing ‪#‎Pride‬ over fear," hashtagged it up, all excited to be out amongst community in a show of solidarity and strength.

I walked up to The Abbey -- arguably the most popular nightclub in the entire city, located in the heart of the gay district -- took out my card (a wee bit grateful for being asked), and the moment I put my ID back in my wallet I felt like I was in the opening scene of a movie where the ending was not a place I wanted to have burned into my psyche or a part of my story. I felt like colors were stronger, everything was beautiful, fanciful, and in a bit slower motion than real life (No, I wasn't on drugs).

I saw my friends a few feet away, and followed them, winding through the crowd to the rest of our group feeling increasingly like I shouldn't be here.

"This is too crowded," I felt crosshairs on the entire crowd of which I was a part. My chest started to feel heavy, my gut kept saying "LEAVE. LEAVE. LEAVE. Why are you here!?" I guess this may be what some experience as the beginnings of a panic attack? I don't know, I've not really felt like this before, but it made me incredibly uncomfortable.

The omnipresence of private security and law enforcement (more than usual because Pride, Orlando) made me feel even more uncomfortable (and not in the same way I usually associate feeling uncomfortable when police are around from a... well... because-Black-man kind of way). Security was pushing people around, way more aggressively than I'm used to, making me wonder "is something happening? Do they know something? What's happening?"

I felt like I couldn't relax. I didn't want to have conversations, or dance, or drink, or have a good time. I was scared and it was growing exponentially. I felt like at any moment this room was going to be leveled, I'd be injured or worse, and all I'd ever be able to think for the rest of my life would be "your gut told you to leave and you didn't listen."

I apologized repeatedly to the people I was there with, gave hugs, and bolted out of the club, all along trying to catch my breath. Then I started second-guessing my behavior. "Are you... are you serious? Really? Could you please be more... dramatic?" (In Cher from Clueless' voice)

That feeling notwithstanding, it's almost like I was involuntarily walking to the car I'd only parked 10 minutes prior. I got in the car, started driving, wanting to turn back, but unable.

I drove and drove and drove, feeling angryscaredconfusedhurtmadstupid. Three times I almost pulled over to just let myself cry the tears that were welling up in my eyes. But I wouldn't allow myself. Now, I sit in the car writing, trying to process what the hell just happened and why I'm back at home.

This... this must be what terror feels like.
‪#‎prayfororlando‬

The next morning, as I write right now, part of me regrets sharing my feelings in the moment. Part of me is glad that I've heard from people that say they can relate, this is exactly what they were experiencing. Part of me, honestly, feels certifiably crazy. More of me though, doesn't even know what to do or say next.

Living in the intersection of the fears I walk around with being Black in America, being a Black man in America, being gay -- and probably other a handful of other qualifiers -- leaves me angrily afraid. I'm feeling confusingly contempt. I feel... a lot of things I can't explain or understand.

While I normally would opt to tie up my writing in a bow, with a cute callback, a nice quote, or something witty and funny, I don't feel any of that. I just feel... unsure...

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My heart weeps for, prays for, hopes for all of those we lost in community who died in the most horrific of ways, the final images they ever saw being their own destruction, murder. For their friends who lost a love, for their families who know not what to do right now.

Feel free to join the commentary happening on the original thread. I'd love to hear how you're dealing, but moreover I'd love for you to know (like I've learned in the last few hours) that if you feel similarly, we aren't alone.