by Sheena Brown
Originally published in the Chillicothe Gazette, October 10, 2021.
In junior high, I was mildly obsessed with the Halloween movies. Never mind that Halloween 3 made no sense with the rest of the series. It was a classic that my best friend and I spent our weekends watching and re-watching. It felt fun to feel afraid, in the comfort of her parent’s basement, curled in a nest of blankets, guarded by her usually sleeping golden retriever. It was entertainment. As I grew, my relationship with fear grew as well. Evolving from something innocent and exciting to a weight that interrupted my days and kept me up most nights.
Having an anxiety disorder, especially an undiagnosed one, meant always operating with a certain level of fear. It was constantly lurking, like an ex on your Facebook profile, or the inevitable presence of Halloween’s Michael Myers in the background of a dark shot. Something doesn’t feel right, but it’s subtle enough that you second-guess your gut.
Michael Myers is a much easier enemy to fight. Even though he’s a terrifying killer, who never seems to get hurt and somehow is ALWAYS right behind you, he is a visible and clear threat. We’re not always so lucky in matters of mental health. It took me years. Years and years. Decades actually, to get to the bottom of my constant awareness of some threat looming just beyond my field of vision. Years that eroded my self-esteem, my opportunities, and my peace of mind. If we can all just agree that a panic disorder or depression is on the level with diabetes or a broken ankle, then we can begin to advocate for better and more robust services to tend to those very real issues.
That is not to say that acknowledgment or education are easy. They are simply the first steps of a long, yet worthwhile journey. I can say with confidence that my ability to manage my anxiety now is vastly different than when I wasn’t sure what it was or when it was going to show. I have studied myself, learned the things that make management trickier, learned strategies that work and the ones that don’t. It takes time, but as the saying goes, the time will pass anyway.
Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to reducing stigma, raising awareness, and simply get people talking about mental health issues. I am a big fan of talking. About anything and a lot. This is probably why the combination of medication and talk therapy have been my most effective management tools. These routes aren’t for everyone but having support seems one of the most important steps toward success.
If you find yourself dodging your own monster or dodging what you fear may be a monster but you’re not quite sure, please know that you are not alone. A great many of us are doing the same. There is strength in numbers. Reach out and find support. You are not the only one.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call 800-273-8255. If you’re curious about mental health resources for our area, dial 2-1-1 for a listing. We also have an awesome Peer Support person on staff, as well as plenty of books on the topic at your friendly local library.
Sheena Brown is a former horror movie enthusiast and Youth Services Clerk at the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library.