How Horror Helped My Anxiety

Whether it’s a glass of bubbly or a slab of cake, I’m yet to befriend a human who doesn’t have some sort of coping mechanism to get them through this thing called life. One of my vices is the Horror genre – it’s the perfect form of escapism.

Around three years ago, I had a feeling of intense anxiety. I was dreading what was about to come, although I had no idea what was about to come. The feeling came out of nowhere, making my shoulders tense by my ears, my heart rise to my throat, my temples pulsing, the world vibrating, my stomach twisting. After a few minutes of deep breaths, I had a chat with myself. “There’s nothing for you to feel anxious about, weirdo. Chill out. All is good.” And it passed. But ever since that day, unexplained anxiety kept finding a way back to me. Sometimes I can tell it to leave, sometimes it will consume me and all I feel I can do is close the curtains and stay in bed until the following day.

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I googled my symptoms early this year (which is really never a good thing for an anxious person to do) and Generalised Anxiety Disorder came up. I tried CBT and it wasn’t for me – I understand the logistics behind my irrational fears and so a therapist trying to baby me through my own psychological processes just felt patronising… Maybe I’m too stubborn, but hey. I tried an SSRI called Sertraline which was pretty good, but I was spaced out, uninspired and my pupils were freakin’ huge, and I knew this wasn’t the long term solution for me.

So since then I just try and survive my own emotions from one day to the next. I try to be kinder to myself. I take time out when I need it no matter the consequences. I work out as much as I can be bothered. Life is like an ocean, and I’m in the middle of it. I can see land in the distance, that land is mental tranquility, and I’m trying to make it there, but the ocean waves keep swaying me from side to side, back and forth, and after what feels like a lifetime stranded at sea, sometimes I’m unsure if I’ve even moved. 

Anywayz, back to why I find on screen murder soothing – escapism. Escapism is the roadblock between me and more sinister decisions. When I’m feeling anxious about my job, my love life, or maybe something I can’t put a finger on, watching a movie about vampires or ghosts sends my personal anxiety into the storyline.

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True Blood was one of my favourites. I was in a relationship where my other half had commitment issues, and it was going nowhere. Watching the shows protagonist Sookie Stackhouse go through heartbreak because she couldn’t be with the vampire she loved (because he kept nearly killing her) was an easy outlet for my pain – I cried along with Sookie because really, what was so different between a vampire and an emotionally unavailable partner? (don’t answer that) Crying for myself was too intense – crying over a TV show was much easier.

But True Blood ended in 2014 and this is 2017 – the year where horror is more easily found in the news than in fiction. My other favourite series is American Horror Story. For 6 seasons it was a horror fantasists dream – ghosts, asylums, witches, circus ‘freaks’, vampires – I couldn’t wait for Season 7! Unfortunately the shows producers didn’t have to look far for inspiration; season 7 is about America in a post Trump world, focusing on fear and anxiety and leaving no room for reflection or light heartedness because what is on screen is real and it’s happening now.

Instead of ghosts and goblins, Sarah Paulson’s character Ally is plagued by the horrific things she reads about the world on Twitter, and yet cannot stop scrolling Twitter, even when her counsellor advises her to.

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She never expected Trump to win the election and so everything she thought she knew about the country she calls home is thrown into disarray. When bigoted psychopath Kai (played by Evan Peters) passes her on the street he throws his drink at her and her wife Ivy, saying “enjoy your latte, bitch!” Most of the Twittersphere found that to be a funny line, even those who thought his character to be deplorable, and yet I felt just unnerved as Ally. The thought of a bigot throwing a drink at me because I was with my girlfriend, or simply because I’m obviously of an ethnic minority, feels like a very possible scenario. My anxiety has increased in a post Brexit, post Trump world, and while Ally is supposed to be a caricature of how right-wingers see liberals, her fear is my fear and the character of Kai is the embodiment of every racist commenter I see online but who never reveal themselves in person. It’s unnerving to think we walk among a sea of quiet Kais.

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Point is, as global events in the world continue to become so horrendous they manage to seep their way into my sanctuary of modern day horror, and it may be time for me to find a new vice.

 

Sidenote: Thanks to Abby Moss for her article on Vice called ‘Why Some Anxious People Find Comfort in Horror Movies’ – when I was researching online about this to confirm I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, her article was pretty much all I found, and it’s great. You can read it here.

 

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