I was checking out the categories and tags most searched for my posts and anxiety and GAD were leaps and bounds ahead of any other categories. This, along with finding out two people I know suffer from severe anxiety this week got me thinking. Why are we all so anxious and stressed out?!
I know where mine comes from (it runs in my family) and it’s always triggered by events like terrrorism or mass shootings. I think I stated that 9/11 was the first terrorist type attack I can remember feeling anxiety about, but before that was actually Columbine. I was a freshman in high school and I can remember just being in disbelief, shock. Shortly after that there was supposedly a ‘hit list’ found at our high school with specific people and a date listed. We were told we didn’t have to attend school that day if we felt uncomfortable even though it was deemed to be a false threat. I, of course, stayed home that day. A safe place for me had turned into a place I was nervous and anxious in. We had ‘intruder’ and ‘active shooter’ drills along with the normal fire and earthquake drills we practiced yearly.
In my mind I couldn’t fathom that something like that would ever happen again. But it has, countless times. There are very few places I actually feel safe now that I am an adult. Just a few months ago I went to the grocery store and couldn’t go inside because I saw a man walk into the store with a large duffel bag. My mind raced and I broke out in a cold sweat. I was convinced the duffle bag contained a bomb and that I would indeed die if I entered the store. This is not normal or healthy thinking but it has become our reality. I don’t watch the news and I don’t read news articles online. I can’t.
After the San Bernadino shootings, offices started having ‘active shooter’ courses. I can remember having to take sexual harassment courses at larger offices I worked in before I became a work from home mom, and I honestly don’t think I could handle a course on what to do in the presence of an active shooter. It makes me sad that American life has come to this and in turn raises my anxiety levels.
Before my parents divorce, we would get random hang up calls at our house. This was WAY before the days of caller ID and even cordless phones. My dad would tell us it was ‘bad guys’ he had arrested (he was a deputy sheriff and as far as I know still is) calling to try and harass him. Actually, it was the woman he was having an affair with. This lie made me paranoid even as a small child that someone was out to get us. I had a reoccurring nightmare of my dad being shot in front of Safeway. When I finally found out the truth I was angry. And reflecting on this, I’m not surprised that I have developed such severe anxiety. I’ve been dealing with feeling unsafe for most of my life.
But I’ve been trying to see the good in this and realized this has definitely changed my perspective on how I treat people in life. I no longer honk at people driving like morons for fear of road rage. And the ‘weird’ or ‘odd’ people I come across in life I try to smile at. I try to treat people I encounter with kindness every day. And I won’t say I always succeed, I definitely have my moments of being less than friendly. But I’m working on it.
I truly believe we could all be a little more kind. A little more friendly and patient. Tim McGraw’s song Humble and Kind has become a sort of anthem for me. What if we could all just be kind on a daily basis. I know it’s a little thing, but I truly believe that something small like that can make a huge impact. Will you join me in trying to make our world just a little bit less scary?