For me, and so many students, anxiety has become a facet of my reality, an unavoidable aspect of my identity that I have grown with, fought against, and ultimately accepted. I’ve spent years in therapy, alternated between medications, and inevitably have found myself at a point where I feel secure, happy and confident that I can tackle most challenges that come my way.
So what happens when all of the thoughts in my head that I’ve learned to take with a grain of salt invade every conversation? What about when every notification I get on my phone triggers those thoughts? Or when events out of my control seem to indicate the world might be ending?
For someone like me, this is very much my worst fear brought to life. I excel in situations that I can control, whether this is a perceived notion or I actually have some ability to influence it. The COVID-19 pandemic has been anything but controlled; no one can determine where it spreads to, whether or not my school shuts down, and it’s even hard to help the people around me remain calm. Even after 4+ years as a public health student, I find myself feeling completely helpless and desperately searching for something that will give me the slightest relief, even for just a few minutes.
Last night my roommates and I huddled around the couch and put on The Truman Show, an indisputably heartwarming and thought-provoking classic. I hadn’t watched it in a while, and wasn’t even that excited to sit through it, but I decided to give it a shot. For those of you who haven’t seen it (and I seriously recommend you do), the film is about a man who since his birth, has lived in a false reality, and everyone knows it but him. His everyday life is filmed for a TV show, which means everything around him is controlled by a producer, all of the people in his life are actors, and his native “island” is actually a filming set. The movie is sad in that his whole life is contrived, and everything he thinks is real is actually someone else’s decision. But, without giving spoilers, it does have a happy ending.
Watching this movie with some of my closest friends on one of the numbered nights in our home really made me think, long after I had left the couch and gotten into bed. Throughout the movie, Truman realizes there is something amiss and fights to gain control in his life. Maybe this is a stretch, but aren’t we all trying to do the same right now?
For the couple hours I was snuggled into comfy cushions and smothered in warm blankets, I didn’t think about Coronavirus. I didn’t think about whether I would have to travel home or not, or if my cousins’ b’nai mitzvah would be cancelled, or if I would even graduate. I inadvertently placed myself in the movie, and relinquished the illusion of control I thought I desperately needed over my life. It didn’t last as long as I wished it would, but it was a start.
As I sit here writing this, I feel a cathartic sense of relief that I can channel all of my thoughts and feelings into something, and then send it off like a relief of tension. I also know that we are all capable of doing the same during this challenging time. Take an hour or two to delve into a book you’ve been trying to finish. Put in some headphones and soak up this beautiful spring weather we’re having. Just live in your moment right now and accept, with a slight sigh of relief, that we never have total control over what will happen, and sometimes that is a blessing in disguise.
Cover Photo: Markham Heid