You used to be called “nerves.” Now you have an elevated title: “anxiety.” How hoity-toity of you. No vapors here, no images of Victorian ladies swooning because some beastly fashion statement is suffocating the life out of them.
No, “anxiety” is the new buzzword universal, as we might say in French—if we spoke French and wanted to show off. Anxiety. That’s your name in the 21st century, in whatever language. Millennials suffer from you and so do Baby Boomers. You are an umbrella term, covering everything from the pitter-pat of lovesick teenyboppers to the free-floating angst of living in a Pandemic world.
Struck by panic attack and need an EKG to check your heart? Could be anxiety. Bobbing along from one fear to another because half of them have already come true and the other half have happened to someone you know? It’s just good ‘ol anxiety.
We can’t cancel you completely if you seem to mean everything from grief, to stage fright, to a case of O My God, I-CAN’T-FIND-MY-PHONE. So, what do I do? Therapy is great; a potentially perfect place to process productively or pointlessly, if you’ll excuse the alliteration. And medication? No comment, that’s outside my scope of practice. There’s also cost—and insurance—to consider. Isn’t anything free, and as often as we want? How can we protect ourselves from ANXIETY?
Write. We humans can write often; we can write well—or we can write badly. We can free write on a beach or timed-write in a wheelbarrow. We can journal, we can blog (yup!), we can write stories and books and poems and captions that make no sense for art pieces that no one understands.
Writing protects us like a wet suit does against the cold ocean waves. It’s not magic, no. We are still wonderfully, terribly human. A little sprinkle of “anxiety” a day may keep some other ailments away. What I mean is that sometimes the feelings are a message, a wave of internal antennae. Sometimes you are a life saver. Leave This Situation Now, you say. Heads Up.
Sometimes you are a chemical aberration, a flash of the genetic wand. You may be a sign of the times, if we take a step back to notice the big picture. Maybe our technology is good for electronic files but poor for Brain Files. Oh, and the Pandemic sucks. By the Way. If the news yells at us and we yell back, we may clench our muscles at the same time. Clenched muscles don’t work for oh so many moments of our every day.
Writing releases. Writing plays. Writing evokes. Writing shares. Writing blurts and shapes and reframes. Through writing we shift gears. Through writing we clench—and let go. We can put the writing away and shut the box and go do something else: something active and allegedly fun, like jogging (I prefer walking myself).
A is for Anxiety.
B is for Boredom. (I’ll talk to you next time!)