Post WWII, our country went into the phase some people remember as “Great.”
It wasn’t great for queer folks, women or people of color, but it was the best of times for straight white guys.
If you were queer, you stayed in the closet. If you were a person of color, you stayed quiet. If you were a woman, they doped you up with Virginia Slims and Valium. Lucky us.
Americans have a long history of medicating instead of dealing with civil issues.
In the 60s, the drug of choice was marijuana. In the 70s, LSD. In the 80s, cocaine. In the 90s, heroin. In the 2000s, mental health drugs exploded.
Children were prescribed Ritalin (legal speed), Prozac and Xanax in record numbers. Sure, some of these kids were in desperate need of medical intervention. But many suffered from circumstantial or temporary mental health problems.
The popularity of psychopharmacology during the formative years of the 9/11 kids led to a generation diagnosing their own problems while the world crumbled.
Decision paralysis? “Ugh, I’m feeling sooo schizophrenic today!”
No, Karen, you’re feeling indecisive.
Boyfriend dumped you? “Girl, I am like clinically depressed this week.”
Katie, I’m sorry, you’re just heartbroken.
Finish cleaning your house? “I was in OCD mode all morning.”
No, Tom, you were performing a healthy adult function at a high level.
Sure, more humans than ever suffer from anxiety. Not just Generalized Anxiety Disorder, defined by the DSM V as, “Excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not for at least 6 months.”
Another type of anxiety is taking over modern brains: Situational anxiety.
If you are going to meet a friend at a new bar, you will naturally feel some apprehension. What’s the parking situation? What if you get there before they do? Will you be dressed appropriately?
Furthermore, is an accused rapist sitting in the highest elected position? Sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court? Sitting at the boss’ desk of your place of work?
No wonder we’re all so nervous.
Some butterflies in your stomach, or some pre-social jitters are totally normal. But it seems like people can’t handle even mild discomfort anymore with all the existential angst hanging in the air.
We all basically want to have a barely beating pulse. No one can bear to suffer the discomfort of human existence. Enter the pursuit of wellness.
What is wellness? Literally, it is the opposite of sickness. Did you wake up this morning? Are you a normal temperature? No intense aches or pains? Congratulations, you’ve achieved wellness.
But ask a millennial and I’m sure you’ll get a vague definition of wellness as being Xanax-calm, CBD vape-chill, melatonin-sleepy, yoga-loose, green juice-zen.
God forbid people feel the unease of being in a new social situation. Or of meeting a new person alone. Or worse yet, the mild discomfort of forcing yourself to leave the house when scrolling Instagram and watching reruns on Netflix with your dog is an option.
No wonder people are too afraid to meet new dating prospects organically, out in the real world. Online dating feels like the only way young people are able to meet new sex partners. You can do a quick Google background check to see if they have any outstanding warrants for sex crimes and hope for the best.
Our compounding political angst, social anxiety and proclivity for procrastination is creating the perfect storm. Ask any person if they’ve been bailed on at the last minute by a friend – even a best friend! – and they will tell you it’s happened to them recently. Or have they been ghosted by someone who propagated false intimacy? You bet.
Instead of facing reality, so many people are holing up with their pets, flourishing their online profiles and numbing out on Instagram scrolls, pet selfies, and CBD gummies.
But the best excuse to get out of a social situation that might be uncomfortable?
“My anxiety is the worst today, sorry.”