Does it (always) make sense to take anxiety medicine when the world is truly an anxious place and anxiety is a proper response to some of the things that happen? Waking up today to learn that there was another mass shooting in a random place in the US on the same day makes me want to never leave the house.
I already get stressed out when I go to movie theaters on opening night or if it’s crowded. I get nervous when I see people on their own or with big bags. I wonder—is this going to be one of those times and places when someone decides to murder innocent people? Am I or one of my loved ones going to be one of those statistics?
In another time or place, that might just be my OCD and anxiety catastrophizing. Someone could talk me through how that’s never going to happen and everyone will be safe. But no one can now. They would be lying to me. They can’t promise someone is going to be unhappy and get a gun and go to the nearest crowded place they can find. It’s terrifying. But to fear it isn’t a symptom of illness—of paranoia or OCD. It’s the way things are now.
So should what does it mean that this makes me scared, anxious, and nervous to live in this world? Should I try to stop my brain from staring at people on their own with big bags? Should I stop looking for ways to protect myself or others if someone did start shooting? Should I try spending more time in crowds to get exposed to the fear of violence?
Moreover, do I really need medication? Or don’t we all a little bit? What does it mean that we live with this all the time and nothing happens to ameliorate the situation? What does it mean that we know this will keep happening again and again? How do the anxious live when the world itself is an honestly anxious and scary place? So yes, we need medication, but it’s like treating a symptom, and not the illness. The illness is a society in which gun violence is common and expected.
So I take my anxiety meds and I try not to panic, but I know that they can’t truly fix everything, because in this case, my brain is not catastrophizing or reacting abnormally. It makes complete sense to be afraid of gun violence when it can happen anywhere at any time. So maybe the meds will help me not to panic about it whenever I read of another terror attack, or take the edge off my fear when I go out to the movies, or to explore a new downtown, or go grocery shopping, but that’s about it until things get better.
My brain can’t feel secure or in control, if I can’t tell my brain that it’s wrong to be so afraid. Fear is a perfectly sane response. Who isn’t afraid? Magical thinking is believing that this might just all stop and that people will just simply stop killing innocent people.
In this case, my brain is actually not lying to me. It’s trying to defend me against an uncertain and constant danger just like it’s supposed to. I just hope it forgives me when I take medication to make that constant stress and fear a little more manageable because I’m just really sad and scared right now.