Ali Lehman - July 28, 2020
REWRITE: ROMANTICIZING ANXIETY
Was the 1950’s America’s greatest chapter?
It was a bad time for people of color, women and queer folks. But sure, it was great for straight white guys.
Queer people stayed in the closet and people of color stayed quiet. Women were lucky enough to survive on Valium and Virginia Slims.
Our country has a long history of medicating instead of confronting civil issues.
People in the 60s smoked pot. In the 70s, everyone was taking LSD. By the 80s, cocaine was king. Heroin chic became popular in the 90s. By the 2000s, pills were the drug of choice.
Countless children were prescribed Ritalin, Prozac and Xanax for their emotional issues. Sure, some kids needed medical intervention. But many suffered from circumstantial or temporary mental health problems.
The formative years of the 9/11 kids were dominated by the popularity of psychopharmacology. Now a generation of adult children diagnose themselves while the world crumbles.
Decision paralysis? Probably schizophrenia.
Boyfriend dumped you? Must be clinical depression.
Finish cleaning your house? Definitely OCD.
More humans than ever suffer from anxiety. The DSM V defines Generalized Anxiety Disorder as, “Excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not for at least 6 months.”
But another affliction is taking over modern brains: Situational anxiety.
If you’re meeting a friend at a new bar, you’ll naturally feel some apprehension. What’s the parking situation? What if you get there before they do? Are you dressed appropriately?
Is an accused rapist sitting in the highest elected position? Sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court? Sitting at the boss’ desk of your place of work?
No wonder we’re all so nervous.
Butterflies in your stomach or pre-social jitters are totally normal. But it seems like people can’t handle even mild discomfort with all the existential angst hanging in the air.
We all basically want to have a barely beating pulse. No one can bear to suffer the discomfort of human existence.
Enter the pursuit of wellness.
IWhat is it? Literally, the opposite of sickness. Did you wake up this morning? Are you a healthy temperature? No aches or pains? Congratulations, you’ve achieved wellness.
Ask a millennial and you’ll get a vague definition of wellness as Xanax-calm, CBD vape-chill, melatonin-sleepy, yoga-loose, green juice-zen.
God forbid people feel the unease of being in a new social situation. Or of meeting a new person. Or worse yet, the mild discomfort of forcing yourself to leave the house when scrolling Instagram and watching reruns on Netflix with your cat is an option.
Online dating feels like the only way young people are able to meet new sex partners. You can do a quick Google background check to see if they have any outstanding warrants for sex crimes and hope for the best. No wonder people are too afraid to meet new dating prospects out in the real world.
Our compounding political angst, social anxiety and proclivity for procrastination is creating the perfect storm. Ask any person if they’ve been bailed on at the last minute and they will tell you it’s happened to them recently. Or have they been ghosted by someone who propagated false intimacy? You bet.
Instead of facing reality, so many people hole up with their pets, flourish their online profiles and numb out on Instagram scrolls, pet selfies, and CBD gummies.
But the best excuse to get out of a social situation that might be uncomfortable?
“Sorry, my anxiety is the worst today.”