August 12, 2014 - 4:54 AM
This week, I heard a saying that inspired great thought. It went something like, “If it sounds like a gallop, it’s probably a horse — not a zebra.”
I’ve been repeating it daily — not as a mantra, but as a reminder — because I like to panic about the little things, and I often forget that it’s most likely just a foot cramp and not gout. (Does gout even exist these days? Eat your kale, people.)
This absurd desire to be irrational about absolutely everything used to scare me. It used to scare me into even deeper spirals of irrationality and I would have to claw myself out of these sticky crazy-pits with therapy (mom) or medication (wine).
Then Google saved me.
That’s something positive about the Internet, if I dare side with technology one more time. For the first time in what I’m going to scientifically deduce as being ever, we don’t need to worry about normality. We are all normal, and Google has proven it.
All of these things, which once upon a time may have made us feel crazy, no longer have to. We all let our thoughts go a bit nuts sometimes, we all have at least one wonky toenail and, yeah, sometimes we feel weird when we think about the fact we entered this world via a vagina. Cool, glad we’re all on the same page.
So why has anxiety become such a big “thing” all of a sudden? It is creating best sellers and millionaires and children know what it means even if they don’t know what it feels like yet. We know we’re all normal — in sickness or in health, in addiction or in withdrawal, in healing and in sorrow — so why are we so content to worry?
This one time my therapist got mad at me for calling my anxiety anxiety. She’d probably get mad at me for calling her my therapist, too, seeing as she was a counsellor and I actually only saw her once when I was really stressed out about graduating with straight A’s, but whatever.
She was all we’re so quick to label all of these things anxiety today when really, it’s perfectly normal to stress out about life changes/overdue bills/mystery skin rashes. Then she was all why don’t you give it a different name so that it has less power over you?
So I called it fear, because fear isn’t an illness, and I started to wonder why I was afraid of all these things that (most likely) weren’t going to kill me (any time soon.)
As always, I came up with a theory.
Back when we were cavemen and cavewomen we had to fight or flee every day (I’ve done extensive research on this by watching The Flinstones, so you can trust me.) We were constantly running from things we couldn’t control — and, if we didn’t run or fight hard enough, we didn’t make it.
We are built to physically respond to danger but, when we live our life rarely having to respond to a danger of that magnitude, maybe we start to create panics of our own to exercise those response muscles.
I know it’s easier to pin the tale on the zebra than to keep beating the same horse, but the healthiest thing for me to believe is that most of my anxiety is just phantom muscle memory of a great earthquake that happened three billion years ago.
And that foot cramp exists because I just tried on my decade-old pointe shoes. So, I’m just going to put these kale chips down.
— Andria is a twenty-something blogger living in Kamloops with her 100 pairs of heels and 200 paperback Penguin Classics.
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