Friday, June 1, 2012

Neurotic Nation

I was not a Prozac Nation college student, but the "culture of silence" described here is SPOT-on. Pressure on students now begins as early as preschool in our ever-more-competitive society.

This has many gains, but I think it's garnering more problems as well. If we have the ability to have the best of everything because of competition, but are too stressed and anxious to enjoy it (because of competition), do the two cancel each other out?

I'd almost prefer not knowing there's lead in the paint!

The thing is, there were times in college (and after college, and last year, and so on) that it might have been a good idea for me to be taking some sort of anti-anxiety medication or at least an anti-depressant. But due to this crushing (really) pressure that I impose upon myself, I never gave it much thought. It was a possibility that got tossed around in my head. But there was never a moment when I thought, "Yes. I need to pull the trigger here because I REALLY need help, and I don't think I should have to suffer."

It's not only the self-denial/independent streak in me that won't/wouldn't accept help, it's the thought too, that because everyone I know has a perfect life, and I am pretending to have a perfect life (those things can't be related), that I a) have no concrete example of what it means to be "sick enough" to need to get help and b) don't want to give up the illusion (to myself more than anyone, I think) that I am ok.

Now, this was designed to be a blog about reading and writing. And we'll get back to that (I have PLENTY more books to talk about!). But I believe that the more good content you consume, the better informed you are. And when articles like this strike a chord in me, I'm going to share. Because as long as this article is (I knowww), it's worth reading if you have had an inkling that hey, all this talking in my head that I do? All this self-doubt? All those days when I honestly didn't think I could get out of bed and wasn't sure why? That time I cried myself to sleep because I dropped my books down the stairs? One of those might be your warning indicator that you "qualify," that you are "allowed" to get yourself help. There's no reason to suffer.

In the article, another reference is made. "Julia Lurie described her college as a place in which emotional problems were both ubiquitous and unmentionable. She wrote of working hard to make herself resemble the Yale ideal, someone academically top-notch but also popular, socially engaged, worldly, ambitious, involved in unique extracurriculars—and most important of all, appearing to fill these roles without effort. Outwardly, she had succeeded. But how surprised her classmates would be, she wrote, if they could see her private self, the girl who "takes her Zoloft and a sleeping pill" each night, then "writhes in hot, silent tears, white-knuckled, feeling like she could scream." 

This is a real thing. This is something of importance, that even though we are a highly-functioning society, full of people who will claw their own eyes out to get ahead, we are also an extremely neurotic society. And we hide it. We hide it very, very well. Anything less than perfectly stable mental health is seen as a stigma, something to be hidden from friends, family, employers, and strangers on the street. What if we treated cancer this way? What if we treated migraines and the flu, and food poisoning, and every other random-ass sickness as something to be shameful of and hidden?

Competition. It's great. But I think it's driving us insane.

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