You know how if you say some words often enough, they turn into nonsense? Like "fad," which, when repeated only a few times, becomes silly.
I don't think you can do that with anxiety, though. It's too sharp, too angular a word. Try to crumple it up and toss it into the silly bin, and you're liable to get cut. Too many syllables to be silly.
When I was a kid, there was no such thing as anxiety.
Sure, there was that nervous lady-nurse at the clinic with the buggy eyes who drank nine cups of coffee a day and always seemed about one "Boo!" away from a nervous breakdown, but that wasn't anxiety. It was just... jitters, I suppose.
I'm anxious a lot, these days. Low-grade. And I'm not even sure if it's real.
There's this post on the Experimental Theology blog where Dr. Beck talks about a dude name Thomas Szasz, an M.D. who argued that mental illness was a myth created by society to control people. And while Dr. Beck (who is an experimental psychologist and educator by profession) was quick to point out that Szasz was overdoing it by writing off all mental illness as a fabrication, he also acknowledged that specific mental disorders are fadular in nature.
(And no, "fadular" was not a real word before ten seconds ago -- well spotted, you.)
Dr. Beck points out how Freud cut his teeth treating something called "hysteria," a super-common mental disorder at the time. Hysteria was a fad, though... a fad that's pretty much passed. Because that's how fads roll.
Are you convinced "fad" is a ridiculous word, yet? No?
Fad, fad, fad, fad, fad.
So, I've got anxiety. And word on the street is that twenty-five percent(ish) of American women are being medicated for anxiety, or things like it.
For a fad.
This is what my anxiety looks like:
Today, I woke up at 5 a.m.
I did not mean to wake up that early. But once I had done so, there wasn't any chance of going back to sleep. Today, I knew, would be a particularly anxious day. Today, at 12:00 p.m. PST, Universal Studios was opening the door to just 500 applicants for an Emerging Writer's Fellowship.
Given how hard it is to break into Hollywood, it was my assumption that there would be an avalanche of applications, and I would need to be very, very quick in order to get mine in before that door slammed shut. So over the past few days, I had carefully assembled what I needed. Checked, re-checked, checked again -- making sure that I'd filled out everything correctly. That I would be right there, with my finger on the button, when it came time to submit my application.
I was anxious.
And then they opened up the applications a half-hour early, and I panicked. I didn't quite check everything quite enough, and I ended up submitting the wrong thing.
So I submitted it again.
And for a moment, all that anxiety crashed down all around me (I might have said a potty word) and I thought... Nooooo! I am never, ever, EVER going to find someone who'll pay me to do what I love. I'm stupid and dumb and (sure, why not?) ugly, and this will all end in ashes and despair.
I began to hum the words to that old, "Que sera, sera" song, and yes, I did feel a little better. Because regardless of whether or not I get to write for Universal, I still have the script I submitted to them. And even if nobody wants to buy a movie about a teenage boy who takes an untested time machine into a post-technological future where his is the most hated name in history, I still have six other scripts in my grab-bag, and brains and mojo enough, I think-yes-maybe, to write a few more.
I was still anxious, though. At least, I thought I was.
But maybe I wasn't. Not, at least, in any seriously "disordered" sort of way.
Maybe I was just experiencing, for the bajillionth moment, the inevitable feeling of jitters that creeps at the corners of the consciousness of anyone who's ever had the interesting fortune to be born a human -- full of brains and awareness, but bereft (for the most part) of control.
Maybe the film industry and mailman and facebook have just barraged me with so many images of other people who have so carefully constructed and maintained such a pristine illusion of control that it has become almost impossible to convince myself of how great I really do have it, in the general scheme of things. How okay it is that I am not, ultimately, in control. Maybe I need to stop trying to convince myself of anything. Maybe I need to just BE... jittery or not. Maybe thinking about anxiety is what makes me anxious.
I have health. I have wheels. I have family, friends, and money in the bank. I oughtta be laughing -- not cackling maniacally.
But see, there's this fad.