Kat Atwell is a freelance writer, blogger & stage presence telling stories that deliver laughs, validation & community.

Mental Health | Wellness & Self Image | Experiential & Reviews

The state of the nation is bad for my health.

And this isn’t even a piece about the ACA.

This is about me. More specifically, this is about my mental illness. I live with generalized anxiety disorder. I do not handle scary well. In most cases, I can choose to avoid the sorts of things that trigger my anxiety. I don’t watch horror movies. I never have gone to one of those Halloween haunted houses (and I never will). I don’t look up illnesses on the internet.

Here’s why: My brain is hard-wired to react from a place of fear. On my good days, I’m replacing my fear-based thoughts with positive ones. I’m expecting the best. I’m mindful. On my bad days, I am convinced there is an ominous shoe about to drop, and I have to be on guard every moment.

Yes, I’m getting treatment. I regularly see a therapist. I take medication, I practice EMDR. I advocate for myself.

It still exists, though.

For example: Sometime last year, I saw a stand-up set (public service announcement?) Rosie O’Donnell did about surviving a heart attack. She emphasized that women have different warning signs. She talked about how lucky she was. She said the type of heart attack she had was dubbed by doctors as “the widow-maker.” I wish I had never seen it. Because now, if I have indigestion, or a sore neck, or a headache two days in a row, I assume I’m going to have a heart attack. And I assume I won’t be as lucky as Rosie O’Donnell.

Note: Rational me totally understands this makes no sense. Rational me understands there are actionable skills I can utilize. The part impacted by anxiety feeds on fear, though, and doesn’t care if it makes sense or not. It tells me I’m a lost cause. It puts me in mental paralysis.

This leads me to where we are now. A scary man is about to be put in office. THIS WEEK. He terrifies me. And I don’t mean his politics, either. I mean him, specifically. He is a bully. He is cruel and hurtful. He is disrespectful. And he is everywhere.

Much like you wouldn’t stick a person going through chemo into a room full of sick people, you wouldn’t force a person with severe anxiety to follow the news — be it real or fake. It’s all terrifying. The news has the potential to make sick people sicker. And I can’t even bring myself to think about what he’s (not) going to do for those of us in America living with mental illness.

As much as I want to turn this into a funny ha-ha kind of thing, I’m not going to, because that’s stigmatizing. My fear is legitimate. It’s real to me. His hate scares me, and the hate he cultivates around him scares me.

If there is a safe place to get news, please direct me to it. I don’t need to hear about golden showers. I don’t need to hear about who he has insulted this time. I don’t need that much negative energy from a person in that high of a position of authority raining down anxiety upon our heads. Clue me in when he’s done work. When action has been taken.

I don’t need a Pollyanna approach. I realize I can’t pretend bad things aren’t happening all the time. Our country exists with a predominant negativity bias. I get that. If there has been negative action taken, like, bills passing that I disagree with, or legitimate threats from other countries, or stuff that has directly resulted from his lack of respect for his position, I need to know.

What I don’t need to hear is what might happen. What he (or his cabinet) has done or said that could potentially lead to something bad. That’s where my brain starts filling in the worst blanks.

We need to make the news safe for people like me, and others who live with disorders such as PTSD, depression, or trauma due to sexual assault. I don’t know how that happens when he is on the precipice of being put into office. I just don’t.

More support groups. More concern for our fellow man. More patience and understanding. More psychiatric beds (looking at you, Colorado). More compassion. More advocacy. More awareness. More love.

My Daughter.

The plight of the extrovert.