Genres: The Toll of Anxiety
I kept joking for a while that I started writing dramas since college because everything got sadder.
It’s a good joke but I needed to pick my audience, because it wouldn’t always land successfully. But, am I wrong? Isn’t everything sadder? Just hop on Twitter for a second, let me know what you find.
It’s been a lot this year. This country elected a monster, there’s an insane amount of social injustice, our planet is falling apart, our economy is screwed, a surge of women just came forward to tell their tragic stories… and I’m leaving out a lot.
Evidently, dramas are a bit easier for me right now.
As I discovered I was more inclined to write intense stories, the plot lines came to me quite easily. I used to prefer writing comedies, but at this time I struggled to determine what could possibly be funny right now. More so, nothing of the like seemed enjoyable to write. My dramatic ideas came from my deepest fears, locked away in the vacancies in my mind. The things that I don’t usually choose to write about seemed to demand attention. And it was easier because the themes reflected the way I felt.
I had my Hemingway moments and wrote a few solid scripts, but the fact is, it’s not a healthy way to live. When I wrote, I would work myself into a really sad state and just go from there. And the pieces turned out well, but it would take me a while to pull myself back up again. And I kept pressing myself: there must be a better way to do this.
This emergence of drama was coupled with my physical pain I felt earlier this year. I had chest pains, trouble eating, and my stomach hurt without any rhyme or reason. As a result, I left my job without having one lined up. As terrifying as this was for my bank account and my dignity, I needed a change. I couldn’t stomach ten hour work days, three hour commutes, and six hours of sleep. Something was not right and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
I took many tests, met with different doctors, tested outlandish theories. In the end, I learned a few things: I am allergic to almost everything outside, like grass, trees, pollen, dust, etc. I learned that I still suffer from pretty bad acid reflux.
But the most important thing I learned: I am very stressed.
Stress was the physical strain I had been feeling for months on end.
It was as if my body was coiled tightly and could only budge back and forth in certain directions. Everything was a worry. My worries developed worries. And the worst was hearing “Calm down,” because telling someone with anxiety to calm down is pointless and of zero help. This is not a thing I can easily control. Believe me, I would calm down if I could.
The second I hear someone tell me to "calm down," I instantly assume there is something wrong with me. And so I try to wrap my head around this while simultaneously telling myself there is nothing wrong me, and then somehow fight off the million of reasons that I cannot calm down. It's as though I'm running against winds from a hurricane. This force suspends me in air and I flail my limbs forward. I know exactly where I need to be and the harder they push the less I move forward.
Overthinking is so easy. And once it starts, it latches onto the next fear within seconds. Overthink that, guess what will go wrong when, irrationalize this and that. And I had gone so far that I was at a loss to reign myself in.
So I started talking to a therapist once a week. She created a safe space for me to walk through these thoughts and learn how to tune them out. We talked through my past, my present, and what I want for my future, and what I fear could happen. I felt myself slowly uncoiling each week, loosening up, exhaling, shedding this toxic skin.
I think I just needed someone to listen. Someone who didn’t know me. Someone who wouldn’t go home and worry about me. I couldn’t do that to anyone else. My family, my friends, and my boyfriend,had stood by me time and time again, saying that everything would be okay. But because none of them were wearing white lab coats and stethoscopes, I could not bring myself to believe them.
Undertaking this new mindset has made me gradually fall in love with life again: the kind of love where they text you saying they had fun and maybe we should get lunch at this new Italian place, and you’re trying not to grin but you definitely are, and you're screenshotting the shit out of that text to send to your best friend. I’m liking this whole idea that we get one shot and we should make the most of it. Which honestly, right now, is really hard to do. But everything seems so new and stimulating. We get so many chances. We can fuck up, and then try again. We can go places, talk to people, read things, write things, run, dance, scream, laugh, cry. How empowering this must be, and how it slipped between my fingertips for so long. Or worse, how I let it slip.
And not everyone has this. I cannot waste another second letting my anxiety dictate how I live.
I’m not completely better, in fact, I don’t know if I’ll ever be. And some days are worse, and some things in this world just seem to be getting worse, and it’s hard to ignore this. The fact is I’m an anxious person. Things that should brush off easily find a way to stick. But I’m learning to pull them off one at a time. I’m learning that I can’t control what happens around me, but I can help. I’m learning that I can actually control the way I feel, a thought that seemed to hover over me but was out of touch, like the rain cloud that only follows a cartoon character.
I feel terribly for the person I was a few months ago. Someone who hated to hear herself talk aloud, so she stopped making an effort. Someone who was embarrassed by how easily she was taken down by herself. Someone who looked down because looking up seemed to require so much more. I wish I could’ve fed her this oxygen sooner, but this is how it was meant to be.
I still write dramas. I’ll put on Rumors and dissolve into the world I am imagining. I can collect those feelings I once harbored and create stories that are close enough for me to tell, and far enough to let me be. And sometimes a joke will make it’s way in there. In fact, sometimes it’ll be the whole scene. And maybe someday, the whole story will be a comedy.
The fact is I’ve only got one life, how can I possibly confine it to one genre?
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