I’ve been diagnosed, at various times in my life, with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sometimes, and with some people, it’s nothing to wear these labels. Many other women I love have a similar diagnosis, as do some guy friends. Women are twice as likely to have (or rather, to be diagnosed with) an anxiety disorder than men. As Americans, we live in an anxiety culture. Work is demanding, home is demanding, looks are demanding, social life is demanding. As women, we live in an anxiety culture within an anxiety culture. We are simultaneously marginalized and the targets of insanely high expectations.
At age 13 I made a general life rule to stay away from trashy girl magazines, and instead subscribed to Ms. during my school’s annual magazine drive. As a result, I feel lucky to be relatively non-anxious about fat or wrinkles. My general lack of TV-watching also helps me to be less afraid of germs and terrorists than others. I admit Jaws ruined swimming for me, and after Psycho I showered in fear for a decade. I also admit that TV, movies, and other media born of our white supremacist patriarchal culture affects the ways I think about race and gender. I’m not immune. TV, even in small doses, does work its magic on me. I once saw a reality disaster show that involved a teenager getting buried alive in a school bathroom after an earthquake, or maybe it was a tornado. No, it was a tornado. Definitely. The image of him in child’s pose for thirteen hours under thirty feet of rubble is seared into my PTSD-addled brain. I am terrified of being so stuck, of no escape. I’ve been there before. Continue reading