On Anxiety, Depression, Kumail Nanjiani


I now compare my experience of living with anxiety as having a constant clock ticking in the background. The ticks denote a countdown until an explosion; the only thing that changes is the tempo. And when the (apparently) inevitable explosion comes, usually nothing outside of “the self” looks any different, but the inside is convinced the sky is falling/has fallen. Basically, my brain lies to me.

I used to compare my experience of living with depression as having a “Dark Passenger”, but Dexter totally stole that and now it just seems like I’m being derivative, which is like the worst thing you can say to a writer. (“SIMPSONS DID IT!”) Now I just compare depression to always having a hooded sweatshirt on. If all is going well, it’s tied around the waist like I’m a roadie for Grunge band who wears cargo shorts with steel toed boots (this isn’t an important part of the description, just the sweatshirt; ignore the shorts and boots thing). If all is not going well, the sweatshirt is up in normal sweatshirt position, covering my upper body. And if the mental shit has hit the mental fan, the hood is up and though I’m a middle-aged man who lifts weights and has seen his share of gnarly scraps, I feel weak and frail. Again, my brain lies to me.

The tag-team duo of anxiety and depression don’t always work hand in hand but when they do, well, hoooooboy do they pack a punch. Mental illnesses fundamentally changes one’s intake of reality. For people like me who are borderline obsessive with their beliefs in reason, logic and skepticism, it’s entirely disorienting.

Because nothing is really, truly wrong: I have not been struck by a car. There is no disfiguring cancer inside of my body that could potentially kill me one day. I am not really big sick. When I was a paramedic we had two terms: big sick and little sick. Little sick meant many things could be wrong but none of them were going to kill the patient. Big sick was the guy with the bullets in his torso. Big sick was the unknowingly pregnant homeless woman who had stomach pain and then suddenly, explosively delivered a premature baby on the gurney and was hemorrhaging uncontrollably. Big sick was the ejected child on the side of the freeway with “doll’s eyes”. It’s difficult to complain about the ticking clock or the roadie’s sweater when one is around - and especially when emotionally close with - people who have more pressing issues.

But you gotta get over that and talk about it. Get over the ego and help The Self (yes, I’ve been meditating a lot). Anxiety and depression feel like big sick, and they collectively kill US citizens in insane numbers, but those of us who live with the conditions have to remember: the brain is lying to you. You are not alone. There is help. The storm passes.

Now, how is this for segues? I saw The Big Sick (cue the womp-womp noise) and I thought it was funny, moving and all-around delightful. Yes, I am telling you that you should go see a romantic comedy. Kumail Nanjiani is a bright shining star in an otherwise crummy, dank, and cold (yes, I’m being dramatic; what else is new?) existence.

Also, just accept that I now watch a lot of movies at home because I work nights, and therefore after they’ve already left the theater, as I don’t want to leave the house because I’m old and cranky. This isn’t a depression thing, promise. I swear the forthcoming Star Wars review, no doubt in which I praise John Boyega as the greatest actor on earth, will be timelier.

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