Why Are People So Shocked That Everyone Has Anxiety?
I hear people poo-poo the fact that massive numbers of people are anxious and depressed, and it makes my eyeball twitch. “Not everyone has a mental health problem,” “Not everything needs a pill,” etc.
Of course not. But the number of people suffering from serious anxiety is stupidly high. And people act confused, conflicted, surprised. They pinch up their eyebrows and tsk and shake their heads and shrug. How? Why? they ask, as if it’s some big fucking mystery.
Have you met modern civilization?
Based on economic gain, unattainable standards of beauty and wealth, and the unequal distribution of power to those who are predominantly white, male, temporarily able-bodied, English-speaking, Christian, fit, cisgender and heterosexual, society is a goddamn disaster for almost everyone.
We lack community completely in North America and carry around this absurd idea that we’re supposed to learn how to adult, build healthy relationships, raise children, and lead successful lives —by ourselves. If you struggle to parent on your own or even struggle with isolation, society says you’re deficient, a failure. There is absolutely no credence paid to the scientific fact that we are a social primate species, meant to live in communities. And I’m not talking about the kind of community where everyone has the same lawn or everyone sings the same hymnal in the religious building. I’m talking about the kind that aren’t scared to protect one another, step in when someone needs help, tell someone that it’s okay, this shit is hard.
We’re also entitled as hell. Line too long? Throw a tantrum. Other people get help but we don’t? Throw a tantrum. Woman behind the counter not telling us what we want to hear? Throw a tantrum. Kid throwing tantrums and no one can “fix” him? Throw a tantrum. We have no collective idea of how to healthily cope with difficult situations on any scale. We definitely don’t know how to grieve or be with uncomfortable emotions.
We are constantly bombarded with information, flashing lights, and voices that try to convince us that if we just paid for this one thing, everything would be better. See this movie, buy this perfume, shop the sale, get ripped/thin/plastic surgery/whatEVER so you’re desirable, eat this food, get this toy for your kid, PAY ATTENTION TO MY CAREFULLY DESIGNED MARKETING MESSAGE. Nonstop, all day. Every single media outlet is drowning in advertising, and advertising is just carefully coded messages designed to make you subtly feel “less-than” until you buy some shit you don’t need. All day. Every. Day.
Let’s not forget how globalization and the miracle of the internet has given us trillions of bits of information immediately at our fingertips. Genocide in Aleppo, women committing suicide as an alternative to rape, police brutality against unarmed civilians in the name of oil at Standing Rock, Trump for god's sake, all. the. poverty, veterans killing themselves at 20 per day, rainforests being razed for monocropped GMO corn fields, young men walking into schools and colleges and churches across the country and just opening fire.
Tell me what the fuck we DON’T have to be anxious about.
Tell me how anyone could get away with not having anxiety in this society if they’re even minimally wired for it genetically.
If you experience no anxiety, no anguish, no indefatigable rage at the current state of the world and your safety within it, there are really only a few options from which to choose: you have supremely anti-anxiety biological wiring (congratulations!), you have the privilege of somehow choosing to ignore the searing pain of reality, or you just have never really paid that much attention. No, really, there are no other explanations.
So that leaves the rest of us to hold the dialectic of trying to just have a decent life while trying to manage the emotional tax of the world in which we must build that life.
We’re doing the best we can with what we have.
Stop being shocked that we’re all so anxious. Of course we are.
Of course we are.