This weekend I watched To the Bone, a Netflix movie about eating disorders. This is something I’ve (fortunately) never dealt with directly, so I can’t be sure how accurately it portrayed the experience, though it’s worth noting that director Marti Noxon struggled with anorexia. (The Atlantic did a good rundown of the difficulties of presenting eating disorders on screen.) But I have experienced a number of other mental health problems quite directly, and this movie made me almost cry in relief with its deep understanding of what mental illness really is. This scene in particular got me:
I’ve dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember, but in the past year it’s really kicked my ass, and I’m still struggling to move on. And this scene got it exactly right. The habits of anxiety are not really about the fears themselves. They are a way to deal with the overwhelming terror of knowing that the worst could happen at any second, that it’s possible that I could have a sudden massive stroke, that I could go shopping and find myself the victim of a terror attack, that I could walk out my front door on this gorgeous sunny day and get hit by a bus and cease to exist. Anxious habits are a way of trying to control what you can in a world that seems–a world that is–entirely uncontrollable.
But it doesn’t work. There is no way to be safe. There is only life, and its experiences, good and bad, and they can only be experienced together.
P.S. This is the first gif I’ve ever made and it took me, like, three hours to figure it out. That’s how much I liked this scene.