On June 11, 2017, the front page of the New York Times ‘Sunday Styles’ section had an article called “An Anxious Nation.” The article talks about the near epidemic levels of anxiety in our society. For a generation, depression was the poster child for mental illness/psychological malaise.
Now it’s MOVE OVER DEPRESSION! MAKE ROOM FOR ANXIETY!
I have both depression and anxiety disorders. My life changed when the first mass market anti-depressant drug, Prozac, became available to the public. It does wonders for me and alleviates my anxiety based depression. Because of Prozac and other drugs in the same category, I have been able to control my symptoms. I have become a happier, calmer, more upbeat person. My inner life now is positive more often than negative.
But, I’ve always felt ‘different’. There was something about me that most people couldn’t understand or relate to. I learned to edit out my anxious and/or depressive thoughts when talking to people. I didn’t admit many of my fears or worries. I just made myself do what I thought was considered ‘normal’ in a given situation.
I felt great relief when depression came out of the closet, so to speak. A lot was written about it and it became universally recognized and better understood. I didn’t have to anticipate the question “what are you depressed about?” if I told someone I was depressive. Over the years of mainstream depression education, most people ‘get’ that it is an illness in which irrationality can control the sufferer. They can understand and empathize, at least on a superficial, outsider level.
Donald Trump has helped push this condition into the mainstream. Since he’s been President, therapists all over the country are reporting a large increase in the number of people coming in with some form of anxiety! Now it looks like anxiety will have its day in the spotlight. A lot is being written about it and an avalanche of people are admitting that they are afflicted by it.
I feel freer now to be open about my issues, however minor they may be for me nowadays. Now I can tell people that I have serious anxieties about driving to an airport alone. This used to be one of my embarrassing secrets. That kind of anxiety is ‘out there’ today. It’s all over TV sitcoms, other TV shows and movies. Celebrities have talked about having agoraphobia. So now I can admit that I have days when I feel anxious about leaving the house. I can reasonably expect some empathy and understanding of my irrational feelings.
Hopefully more people are recognizing and diagnosing their anxieties and getting help. Medication does a lot for most people, as does Cognitive Therapy. More support groups are popping up online and in the real world. Being able to talk openly and feel support is a big step towards conquering the illness.
It is liberating to know that I am not alone battling my demons. It is comforting to know that many other people have similar issues. Why does that help me? Because the painful sense of stigma is removed. No one, including me, believes it’s my ‘fault’.
The need for secrecy and pretending is removed. I can just deal with my issues in peace. I don’t have to add insult to injury. I don’t have to be anxious about my anxiety!