age of anxietiesramble

(15 comments)
April 24, 2005

Ramble of the Moment
I made the mistake of bringing What the #$*! Do We Know!? for psychotronic movie night the other week. It turns out it's a big infomercial for "Ramtha" and related thinking...Salon magazine really rips it a new one, and although it was a bad movie, it was great movie night fodder. Though too many of the laughs might've been cheap shots about the Marlee Matlin, the deaf actress for the main character. (I was amused to see Ramtha has his own IMDB entry..."Primary Photo Not Submitted" indeed.)

Anyway, the film really took too many liberties with "quantum physics", but one idea I've been thinking about is being addicted to certain behaviors. They gave a neurochemical explanation that I don't know enough about to really judge, but sometimes I think I'm addicted to anxiety, in a real and physical way.

It's not fun. It's not like I'm happy to be anxious, except maybe on some weird meta-meta-level I can't even feel. But it feels like I have this free floating need to be worried and some vague concern--generally something real, but distant or unlikely, or something small but likely that I'm blowing out of proportion--

I wonder when this started? Because around 1997 or so, I remember people commenting how "up" I always seemed, just whistling and bopping along. I still bop along, but I think there's a lack-o-lacksadasicalness I no longer pull off very well.

My personal crackpot theory? Y2K's too blame. Not since my parent's not letting me watch the post-nuclear-war miniseries "The Day After" was I that fearful. I read too many of the wrong websites and had too much faith in the reliability of systems in use (i.e. so reliable that backup plans and workarounds weren't available) that I thought some serious chaos was likely. (Here's my September 1998 Loveblender Ramble trying to spread the bad word.)

Around that time, roughly at least, my blood pressure went up--from something surprisingly good to pretty mediocre. For a long time, I sardonically noted that this also corresponded with me going to the gym regularly for the first time ever, but now I wonder if it's just plain old anxiety.

After Y2K, it was mortality in general...barring some surprising advances in technology, I will be shuffling off this mortal coil someday. Now I'm proud of my response to this anxiety, I reconsidered my philosophical outlooks and really worked to get a sense of perspective and came up with The Skeptic's Guide to Mortality. Then of course WTC gave everyone a case of the willies, as much for what could happen next than what had already happened.

Since then...eh, it's been a few things. Every once in a while I'm grabbed by something really "menacing", an EMP strike that melts all the electronics in the hemisphere, the asteroid strike, the supervolcano, etc etc. But more often it's just the fear of job loss, or...hmm, come to think of it it's that job loss thing that really gets to me, even though I know I do have potential Plans B through G or H or so that should do ok at keeping me from utter destitution. (Sometimes just the specter of a forced lifestyle change seems absolutely haunting!)

Logo for the "Nuclear War Fun Club"--detail from a notebook back cover I decorated in high school... using hypothetical branding to cope with big dreads! (Linked image is a little large, but potentially interesting)
Though I can think back to some elements of this that precede my awareness of Y2K...dread about nuclear war (oh man...I forgot that for years any loud airplane sound scared the bejeebers out of me...maybe that was the missiles coming in? Later, after I had matured past the concern, my buddy Mike pointed out that the missiles I should worry about travel much faster than the speed of sound. Though the Emergency Broadcast Signal can still make my heart leap into my throat.) And in college I remember wanting to find out, is there anything about the make up of AIDS-like viruses...deadly, but with hugely long dormant periods...that makes them less likely to be spread like the flu? So it's always been an element to one degree or another.

Sometimes I wonder if anti-anxiety medications would be a reasonable "life style" option, something that would actually improve my general sense of well-being (or maybe just my blood pressure!) without bringing on a whole host of problems on its own. (The latter being Evil B's take on it.)