"They mistake danger for safety and safety for danger" was Gabor Mate quoting someone else and the first time I ever made sense of the routinely appalling choices people who 'have anxiety' routinely make.
Let's try and comprehend it together. you have a person and that person 'has anxiety'. Now let's imbure this imaginary person with a fairly simple desire, they want their poetry to be praised. They want praise, they sit around imagining scenarios where they show it to their friends, teacher, publish it in a zine and people write in and talk about how great and beautiful their poetry is.
But for this person, praise is so unfamiliar to their formative experiences, that when it occurs it makes them uncomfortable, or distressing. Creating a constant tension between advancing towards their goals and withdrawing.
This is the mind bending subjective experience I can't imagine, similar to the celiac who craves a piece of cake or doughnut or crusty loaf of bread but upon ingesting it even in minute quantities convulsives and vomits up the contents of their stomach, because their bodies find gluten to be a toxic foreign body.
However, while celiacs have to avoid bread to avoid projectile vomiting, the anxious have to avoid life in order to avoid feeling... unpleasant.
This is the part where I can fully sympathise (if not empathise) with celiacs but I reflexively look at the anxious people in my life and privately think 'you fucking weaklings'.
Firstly if you track your eyes back to paragraph 3 you'll notice I put 'has anxiety' in scare quotes, because in my experience I come across a lot of people who will confide in me the 'have anxiety' nobody says 'I have an anxious personality disorder' or 'I have an anxious attachment style (dismissive/needy)' It's offered up as though to explain this person to me, but nobody seems to treat it like they actually have a debilitating condition that they need to be working on, if not against.
Everyone seems to go to therapy and talk about sport or some shit, and carry very little behavioral change out into their workaday lives.
Consider the alcoholic, step 1 is admitting you have a problem, but when was the last time you were standing by the fridge in some kitchen at some party talking craft beers with some bearded dude with ear plugs you'd never met before and they said to you 'actually I'm an alcoholic.'
Admittedly I'm not that social, but I'd wager never. Not with a drink in hand. I myself have stated bluntly and matter-of-factly at parties to the host offering me a drink that I'm a recovering addict, and I'll never be drinking. Yet people who inform me they have anxiety tend to be standing in a corner of a party not engaging with anyone new or interesting. They are talking to me because I'm the only person they knew before somehow mistakenly turning up to this event.
And I understand shy, I often go to parties too tired to actually make connections with new people, though I do love flirting. I'm not talking about people telling me they are an introvert, because being an introvert is not a problem. (I will say however that I seem to live in a world of introverts and if I met an actual extrovert somewhere I would probably kiss them with delight, also introverts need to understand that preferring not to socialize is not an excuse to not socialize, you need to get to that fucken party and support the host. Fucking extroverts did homework in isolation during school so you can talk to strangers from time to time, I do.)
Another way alcoholics are unlike the anxious, is that not only do the alcoholics we know rarely admit to us and themselves they are alcoholics, but a big reason for this is because it is understood that alcoholics (and indeed all addicts) are required to do something about their problem.
I guarantee no public broadcasting service outside of Russia has done a feature on life with an alcoholic where some husband or wife sits at a kitchen table and says 'Well Casey is an alcoholic, so you know on payday they generally go to the bar and spend most if not all of their paycheck and liquor so we've had to adjust and devise ways to feed ourselves without their income.' That may be a harsh reality, but nobody accommodates alcoholism like we do anxiety.
And I understand addiction better than I do anxiety, and the tragedy of this juxtaposition is that our society generally demands its addicts to fight their addiction when it is most often a symptom of things like anxiety, depression etc.
Alcoholism has been presented as an illness, and more recently (and as of the latest, baselessly) as a genetic condition. It may have been useful in the old days to destigmatise alcoholism by removing personal responsibility from the equation, but that's the thing, people have beaten addiction, substance dependence.
Mental Illness has last I checked (about 3 years ago) been rebranded as Mental Health Issues, probably (I don't know, and never checked) for the very reason that 'illness' absolves people from responsibility for behaviors they can actually address, and also bias us towards pharmaceutical solutions.
But unlike ADHD, my experience of interacting with the now anxious majority, gives me no indication that big-pharma is the man behind the curtains. Though it appears to team up with depression often, the only one of my friends I have real insight into the role of medication in conjunction with anxiety is that of my best friend. Otherwise some may be using SSRI's but most people I know are not taking any medication.
To be honest, I have absolutely no fucking idea what most of these anxious people are doing about their anxiety. They just seem to form social groups where being anxious is the norm, maintain stressful lifestyles and avoid practical solutions and most forms of exposure response prevention therapies.
I'm not talking about the horrifying extremes like OCD, or PTSD. I'm talking about people who feel self conscious in a room full of people, that need to drink in social situations, that feel anxious receiving a phone call and would prefer if people texted, that pop up on social media IM to see if I'm going to a party before they decide on attending.
Garden variety anxiety.
Having some little insight into schizophrenia, bipolar, psychosis, OCD and clinical depression. I find it really hard to take the anxious very seriously, I just see them unconsciously formulating the new norms of social interaction, and I don't get it and I don't want to jump on the anxiety bandwagon. I don't think of anxiety like depression or even celiacs, I feel exactly the same about the anxious as I do hipsters and emos.
Something the kids are all doing these days that is strange and confusing to me. Hence insufficient compassion for their plight.