I have anxiety.
I think I always knew this – on some level – in the background, but this year saw it reached a certain level that compelled me to seek professional help. (And holy bejesus, am I glad I did.)
Opposed to panic attacks or episodes, my anxiety manifests in an overwhelming sense of dread. I work myself into a state where I catastrophise everything; the strange man on the tram becomes so much more than an eccentric dude – when I’m having a bad day he’s suddenly an immediate threat who I should be fearful of.
On my worst days, I can’t walk in a straight line down the street. I spend it turning in circles, checking behind my shoulder constantly, just in case someone dangerous is lurking. Then there are the vivid, sweat-inducing night terrors, which not only ruin my night’s sleep – but tend to ruin the day ahead, too.
Blergh, so much doom and gloom. This story gets sunnier, I promise.
My anxiety almost exclusively stems from a traumatic event when I was 19. And while my bad days are now mere blots on my year – far outweighed by my sunny, anxiety-free days – they’re still there. Peppered across my calendar. Particularly in fear-ridden weeks like the one we’ve just had.
Actually, my worst weeks with anxiety this year have been those punctuated by horrifying news stories: In April, May and June it was terrorism. This week it was the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Hearing about these awful things ignites a feeling inside me that I’m in immediate danger. I’m far from being the only one who feels that way, too. Scientists have found that when we read or listen to a particularly troubling news story, it spurs a massive release of cortisol, ultimately leaving our body in a state of chronic stress.
Before I started seeing a psychologist, I had no idea reading negative news could do that.
I did know that I had a bit of a true crime podcast/TV/movie/book obsession. I also had an insatiable appetite for current affairs.
The Keepers was my favourite Netflix show. Casefile was my go-to podcast. Gone Girl and Girl on a Train were the novels I constantly recommended to friends. And the news stories I clicked on? They were exclusively (paradoxically) about the very things that induce my anxiety most: death, rape, crime.