An Aside on Anxiety*

I may have anxiety, I think to myself multiple times a day, but especially when I am faced with a crowd of people and I have to speak. Or in the quieter moments, when an intimate conversation ends abruptly, and I wonder what kind of impression I made on the person. I think this to myself as I involuntarily wring my hands in an attempt to soothe myself.

And then I remember my brief fling with psychology in school, where the cardinal rule I was taught was to exercise caution in self-diagnosis: our ailments are a checklist, and it is one which it is easy to tick items off. I have been through no trauma to trigger this, I think on some days, and on others, I attribute it to the events I had been through in my first few months at law school.  I want help, a hug, some “self-care“, but I then recall this article, [1] which laughs at us for being weak wusses, and  suggests we are but children in search of coddling. Everyday Feminism, of course, has a response that is readily available on my newsfeed: you wouldn’t hesitate to accommodate someone with a physical illness, so why should it be any different if your symptoms are invisible?

Foucault [2] then comes to mind, reminding me that madness as an illness is a relatively recent construct, and I find aspie [3] support groups online who unwittingly echo him in their assertion that theirs is just a different way of processing emotions and thoughts. But then the lawyers jump in, pathologizing  yet again, and I suddenly decide that I am perfectly sane.

In my quieter moments, I am aware that the truth, as always, lies somewhere in between – that perhaps we are too quick to de-normalize unorthodox ways of thinking, but some people do genuinely have more difficulty than the rest in adapting to society. And because of our constructs of mental disability as illness, as criminality, as a society we are reluctant to accept that the pool of different-thinking people could be much wider than those whom we believed. Capitalism also has a role to play, of course, wreaking havoc on our persons in yet another  way – through our minds and emotions this time. It is natural for us to be insecure and anxious when our world is crumbling and our worth is precarious – I even believe a lot of social anxiety could possibly be a result of the immense pressure capitalism places on selling yourself, even in matters as intimate as friendship. [4] (Though of course, it is a hunch I cannot really substantiate.)

In the end, however, with counseling failing me, and without access to therapy, all I have is myself, and my view of my issues. And – speaking for myself alone – it has helped me immensely to view anxiety as something transient and circumstantial, so that I am not crippled by a feeling of helplessness in dealing with it, while recognizing that this is hardly universal.

*****

Notes

[*] Please forgive me the unintentional alliteration in my title.

[1] Interestingly, none of this literature is specific to India. We know more about American social phenomena than we do about our own.

[2] M. Foucalt, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (1964).

[3] Term used by self-advocates with Asperger’s Syndrome to describe themselves.

[4] But here is an article that provides some of the limitations in the sample study used in the previous link. So … I dunno.

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