Do you follow Zen and Pi? There’s a newsletter associated with the blog that I’ve subscribed to and read, eventually. Today I didn’t feel like getting it if bed right away and it was one of the most recent Unread things in my email inbox. So I opened it.
There are always links to interesting reads at the end. I have to admit that I don’t usually click on most of them, and when I do it’s somewhat haphazardly. After all, I usually have a lot of blog post notifications from the blogs in subscribed to waiting in my inbox to be read as well. But today I saw this and clicked immediately: “Horror movies for anxiety?”
One of the hurdles I had to get over in order to ask my doctor about anxiety medication was simply that thinking about how long I have been living with anxiety makes me uncomfortable. As far as I can tell, I went from relatively extroverted to an introverted bookworm at some point just before or during fourth grade. By sixth grade I was a huge Stephen King fan, my favorite movie was Jaws, and vampires that are actually scary became (and for the most part continue to be) my favorite type of humanoid monster. So reading this article about how many people with anxiety self-soothe with horror at first made me uncomfortable because it points out something I’ve been doing for longer than I’d like.
The article’s author has general anxiety but does not take medication for it, instead sometimes self-medicating with horror movies. This presents an anxious mind with a very controlled source of anxiety. It’s a gratifying feeling, because while the mind is anxious it also knows that what it’s anxious about isn’t real. Of further interest are the author’s interviews with medical professionals who have studied these sorts of things, backing up the observed feelings of gratifyingly manageable anxiety. The one caveat is that no, exposure to the horror genre isn’t going to result in an overall decrease of anxiety. Exposure therapy tends to work only when more specifically targeted to the exact source of phobias and worries.
What struck me the most forcefully, though , is the self-realization that I have been watching a lot more horror than usual lately. I actively seek it out in my free time, even going so far as to spend my lunch breaks at work rewatching American Horror Story. When left to my own devices at home, I gravitate towards the silly horror movies with low ratings on Netflix. (You know, the ones with descriptions of scenarios that already sound like “what were these people thinking” situations.) I have watched these to the exclusion of other shows that I’ve also enjoyed in the past, often to my partner’s perplexed annoyance — Orange is the New Black, for example. “It’s too intense,” I would say, when I suppose what I meant is it’s too real. “And Fear the Walking Dead isn’t?” was a responses once. I didn’t have an answer for that.
I try to be mindful of my own feelings, but in retrospect I really haven’t acknowledged just how much extra anxiety has been weighing on me lately. Work has been rough. The most diplomatic way I can sum it up is that there’s kind of a high burnout and turnover rate, for a variety of reasons. I’ve been worrying about how much is either going to fall on me or fall through the cracks.
Now that I’m more aware of it I am going to try harder to let it go. In the meantime, does anyone have any good movie or tv show suggestions?