Now that it’s a new year and I’ve officially completed my undergraduate degree, I’m devoting more time to my writing. What better way to do it than the 52 Essays Challenge? It’s exactly what it sounds like: Write 52 essays (or at least 1 per week) by the end of the year. I got the idea off of a writing group and made the leap.
My boldness stops at taking writing challenges, however. Having an anxiety disorder limits my ability to be totally adventurous. I hate heights, tall buildings, looking up at the sky too long, and thinking about flying in airplanes, so don’t expect me to ever go bungee jumping or an equally horrible activity. I can be a jumpy mess if someone catches me off-guard and my uncharted levels of paranoia could win an award.
And yet, I regularly indulge in horror-tastic media. I love reading and listening to horror stories and Creepypastas, Halloween (the holiday, the costumes, and the decorations), and finding scary movies on Netflix and at the flea market. Though anxiety and horror aren’t obvious choices to mix together — much like how I didn’t think chocolate and potato chips went together as I watched someone dip a Lays chip into the chocolate fondue fountain (until I tried it myself )— it’s surprisingly satisfying. I find that the reason I can watch horror movies, read or listen to Creepypastas, and consume other horror media is because I can control how long I’m exposed to it. That’s what it comes down to: control. I can never control an airplane if I suddenly realize I’m thousands of feet above sweet, precious land and have a meltdown on board. I can’t control unforeseen life events and the fact that the fastest way to my boyfriend’s house is over a stupid scary bridge.
In Patricia Grisafi’s piece “How Horror Movies Help Me Cope With Anxiety,” Grisafi explains that though she too suffers from anxiety, horror helps her cope with her daily jitters. When I first read it, everything finally made sense. She sums up an anxious person’s rationale for watching spooky movies perfectly in the last paragraph, saying, “[Coping] with real world situations is sometimes intolerable for people with sensitive nervous systems. Dulling our senses with inexplicable horror and violence just might help a disordered nervous system become more amenable to the everyday crises of life.” Indeed, Stranger Things’ Demogorgon at least hides in another realm. It’s odd how I seem to be more afraid of the bridge than the troll in these situations.
That doesn’t mean I don’t get paranoid or anxious after indulging in some creepy-time. I remember the first time I watched The Ring I had to stop it half-way through from getting spooked. I glared at the TV and jumped at every bit of static sound. It didn’t help that my rural area relies on well water either, and they all look like that ominous stone well Samara lives in. Later my fear of Samara turned into me being a dweeb and dressing up as her for Halloween one year. I unintentionally scared many people walking around in the public park and cemetery combo I visited, but I never found a well to crawl in (just tombstones):
One day I decided to take advantage of my adrenaline as a method of keeping myself awake to finish up an essay one night. I put my headphones in my ears and listened to the audio of scary 911 calls, “Let’s Not Meet” Creepypastas, and snapshots of famous serial killers. It ended up being an overload because all I could think about was whether or not someone was sitting outside of the window watching me type about Late Antiquity, plotting to kill me Nero-style or worse. Additionally, combining the anxiety from school-related stress and paranoia was not a good idea. To sum it up, it’s not my miracle cure, but it’s a good distraction in small, manageable doses.