On Anxiety and Cake

I borrowed a copy of Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half book a while back from a friend of mine, who recently reminded me that I still hadn't returned it. I figured it would be just another in a long line of books I borrowed from people - intending to read it, and then realizing I am really bad at reading/finishing books that aren't audiobooks.

And this isn't because I don't LOVE Hyperbole and a Half - I not only do, but also think Allie Brosh is uncannily brilliant at drawing facial expressions not seen on any human but likewise deeply understood in the human brain. (In my whole life, I will never create anything as perfect as The God of Cake)

Unfortunately, I have this thing where if I think something will affect me in a specific negative way, I avoid doing/reading/watching that thing entirely. Like my emotions are controlled by a series of buttons and once the wrong one is pushed it's impossible to pop it back out again and return to neutral. I mainly do this just in case they reiterate feelings of anxiety. I have gotten a LOT better about managing my anxiety in general (getting older helped a lot, as did volleyball, weirdly) but sometimes I forget all the work I've done managing my anxiety and worry that one little teeny tiny thing will push it back all up in my face. Because that's what anxiety does - it stays hidden in the corner with its ears pricked up, waiting to see if you'll fall for any of its filthy tricks again. Anxiety is those ghosts in Mario that follow you around and only stop when you look directly at them.

So when I read Brosh's strips on depression, outlining her experience drudging through it, and then heard Terry Gross bully her into talking about her suicidal thoughts on Fresh Air, I worried reading the whole Hyperbole and a Half book would make me too upset. (I'm not even linking to that crap interview)

Dumb, right? Yeah, reading about other people's struggles and hardships might upset you, yeh toolbag.

But then yesterday, while cleaning out my old podcasts on my phone, I discovered Marc Maron had recently interviewed Brosh and gave it a listen. The two of them had such a wonderful, caring, complete conversation not just about her depression, but about her life and experiences and intelligence and brilliance in general, that it was the perfect palette cleanser after the crap Terry Gross put her through. Yes, Maron can be a bit of a blowhard who loves to hear himself talk, and even though they still touched on a lot of really, REALLY, difficult stuff, I felt like this time it was more at Brosh's own speed, with someone who made an effort to understand an inkling of what she was talking about.

Which made me finally buck up and read the book, which is AMAZING and HILARIOUS and thought-provoking and I'm so glad I did.

So I think my takeaway from this experience (and the reason I've decided to bring it up here) that I've learned is that hey - talking about this stuff, whether anxiety, depression, mental illness, weird cravings, whatev - may actually make it a wee bit better! Maybe I shouldn't be so scared that just by saying the word ANXIETY three times I'll invoke the creature out of its corner.

Now -- my fear of invoking Bloody Mary just by THINKING about her name three times whilst in the bathroom -- that one I'm pretty sure is conquered by drinking Bloody Mary's every chance you get.

Maybe now I can move on to listening to the "How Panic Attacks Work" podcast from How Stuff Works that I intentionally skipped over ...

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