Anyone else notice how we've added the word "anxiety" to the term "depression" in the last few years? It used to be that we just talked about depression, but now it's always the phrase "for sufferers of "depression and anxiety" or "this pill dramatically reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety."
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning and came across this gem about How to Survive a Mass Shooting, and I thought "Oh for fuck sake, what the hell is this alarmist clickbait bullshit?" I read the article and had two major thoughts: First, I was struck by how calm and non-alarmist the article actually was (that is, it was genuinely meant to convey information); and secondly, I thought "This is the equivalent of telling a woman that if she doesn't want to get raped, she shouldn't dress in slutty clothing."
For this is what it's come to. A couple of years ago, when a mentally disturbed kid went into an elementary school and shot a bunch of six-year-olds, I thought "At last, finally they can't ignore the gun control issue anymore." But the minute America decided that a bunch of dead little kids was okay, I knew we'd fully lost the battle. So now it's up to us. Soon we'll all be wearing Kevlar vests under our clothes, and that will be the new normal. Fashion designers will have to account for the added bulk underneath, and all the emaciated models on the runway will be sporting them. This is what it has come to.
I prefer driving around with all my car windows down to running the AC. I just like the wind in my hair. Then I heard on the news that there's been a spate of people running up to people with open car windows and snatching their purses and backpacks out of the passenger seats and running off. So now I wrap the straps of whatever bag I have with me around my parking brake as I drive. This is what it has come to.
I used to like to sit outside at various coffeeshops when I write. But there has been a rash of robberies where people are sitting at tables outside coffeeshops and the robbers run by and grab laptops off the tables, and before the victim is even aware of what's happening, the robber is half a block away. Now I sit inside at the back of any given shop and wonder whether I should buy one of those cords to wrap around my laptop. This is what it has come to.
Within the first year of moving into our new home, our car was broken into three times. Each time, we kept less and less in the car, and nothing at visible. The last time it was broken into, the thief stole our dental floss that we keep in our console for flossing emergencies because that was, literally, all we had in there. Our house was broken into. While we were in it. We had to break down and buy a security system, even though we didn't want to be those people that shielded ourselves from the outside world. Now we arm ourselves from the Others every night. Us vs. Them. This is what it has come to.
Guns used to be used in situations of anger in one-on-one situations, situations where a someone had a beef against another person or people for a specific reason (real or imagined). Then, in 1991, a dude in Killeen, Texas, George Hennard, walked into a Luby's cafeteria and gunned down 23 people, and suddenly the concept of a person killing a large group of innocent people for no reason with a gun or guns was a possibility. You could just be sitting in a restaurant, eating dinner with your family, and suddenly your life could be over. Then it was you could be the food court of a shopping mall. Then it was you could be watching a movie in a theater. Then it was you could send your kid off to high school and he or she could die. Then it was you could send your kindergartner off to school, for fuck's sake. Then it was you could be literally sitting and praying in your house of worship. This is what it has come to.
Then, in a new wrinkle in 2015, you could, literally, be on live TV, and be gunned down in front of thousands of people watching their morning news before heading off to work.
This is what it has come to.
Is it any wonder at all that "anxiety" now goes hand in hand with depression? Of course we're fucking anxious. When you start looking around---and you don't have to look that hard---it sure does seem that everyone and everything is out to gun us down, steal our shit, and leave us for dead. Plus, in addition to the NRA, the gun lobby, and the inbreds with their fingers on their triggers, we are also fed a steady diet of horrific news in our Twitter or Facebook feeds, so even if no gun nut has shot anyone in your own neighborhood or movie theater, you have easy access to the other "deadly" news that jams up our brains. Now our food is killing us, so is our water, so is the FUCKING AIR, for chrissakes. I mean, when you really stop and think about it---and plenty of us do---really the whole planet and everyone on it is conspiring to end your life.
And you say you feel a little anxious? Can't imagine why.
"Depression hurts...Cymbalta can help."
I think I own these very same sweats.
So yeah, you can go see your doctor and get your Zoloft, Prozac, or Paxil, and I certainly don't condemn the happy meds; they work for many people, me included. But if you're using those meds and not altering your behavior and what you choose to look at each day, you're essentially still standing in the shit and wondering why you're covered with flies. If you're not taking some steps to self-soothe (like meditation) or if you're not modifying what you read on the interwebs each morning (please stop reading Fox News), you could be mainlining that Prozac and you're still gonna have a bad time.
So if you're someone who is currently taking anxiety meds but still listening to your town's police scanner, getting a steady diet of alarmist news, and spending time with Debbie Downers all day long, maybe it's time to modify your behavior a bit, so that you're working in tandem with your meds and not against them. Maybe try some experiments---vow that you're not going to watch or read any news for a month or that you're going to give up all social media for a week. See if it makes a difference on your outlook.
Look, I live in fucking Oakland, a city about which many crime jokes are made. I'm not advocating that you bury your head in the sand and walk down Telegraph Street at 2:00 a.m. with your laptop bag wide open. If you live in an urban area, it pays to have some common sense and street savvy. I'm still not typing this entry from the sidewalk table outside the coffeeshop; I'm still firmly entrenched in my back-of-the-store seat. But I have changed my behavior in how I meditate and in what I click on. I never click on articles from certain publications or articles that have alarmist and horrible headlines. I've stopped posting alarmist and angry stories (mostly) on my own feed so others don't have to read those kinds of stories either. And I never read comments on articles, for that is the Satan's butthole of the internet. I can promise you, you will never have a rosy view of humanity while reading any comments forum. (Unless it's Gawker comments---sweetbabyjesus, that is some of the funniest writing on the 'net.)
Yes, the world is undeniably a shitty and unsafe place, probably even most of the time. But there are certain steps you can take to minimize your exposure to it. Stay sharp out there, but stay smart too. And just to be safe, before you shut down your computer or phone for the night, you should probably watch some cute-ass animal videos before bed.