Internet, I have a confession for you.
I am generally uninformed.
I made a conscious effort about three years ago to stop reading newspapers and to stop watching the evening news. The reason I made this decision was because my anxiety was becoming too great. I had started to have panic attacks. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know that there is basically nothing in the world you wouldn’t do (including use a double negative) to get rid of them.
There was a period of time when every time I rode a bus, I was absolutely convinced that I was going to get shot in the head by a stray gunman. And I spent several bus rides sitting there praying for my life as tears ran down my cheeks. And you thought I was crazy before.
I would stress about the environment and pollution and overpopulation and food supply and violence and politics and diseases and carcinogens and on and on and on. I would just freak the fuck out all the time. Basically I felt like this about every single news item:
Repeat over and over like those irritating streams that run along the bottom of the news.
And then I sort of went “Ok. This is not making me a better person. This is not making me productive or energized or motivated or anything. It’s just paralyzing me with despair and fear. Which sucks.”
So, I got a bunch of books about anxiety. (Does anyone see the irony there?) Anyway, I got a bunch of books on how our brains work, particularly anxiety-ridden brains. They claimed that a repetition of thoughts essentially carved out rivers in our brains — like a trickle of water down a hill. The more water (thoughts) we sent down the hill (our brains), the wider the river got and the water (similar catastrophic thoughts) flowed down our rivers (brains) super duper fast. So, the gush of panic would turn a basic thought about needing to pick up milk into something like this: “I need more milk. But what if there isn’t any milk at the store? Then I’ll get a calcium deficiency and my bones will become brittle. And then my bones will break all over the place and I’ll have to have surgery upon surgery. And I don’t have health care so I’ll have to be homeless and then I’ll become a drunk to stay warm and on and on and on … etc.”
I needed a new river in my brain.
So, I started training myself. Whenever I started to panic and imagined the semi driver next to my car going ballistic and crashing into me while laughing maniacally, I would go like this in my head:
2 times 2 is 4 times 2 is eight times 2 is 16 times 2 is 32 and on until I no longer felt panicked.
(Disclaimer: I’m not a mental health expert. This is my story, not my advice.)
Eventually, it worked. Over time, I had a new river in my brain. It was a frantic multiplication river, and it made my world so much more serene and enjoyable. Multiplication is my hero. The anxiety river just sort of dried up. Well, mostly. The irrational anxiety river, anyway.
But after this election, I’m thinking it might be time to reengage a little in the madness that is the news. Because while I don’t want to be obsessive and anxiety-ridden, I also don’t want to be an under-informed imbecile (which I’m sort of confessing to you that I am.)
I started small last night. I looked up the definition of “ding dang,” since I realized that I was campaigning heavily for a phrase that I had never even researched. Not at all. So, like any person on a knowledge quest, I went straight to Urban Dictionary. Here is what I found.
And even though Buddhist is misspelled in the first definition and that alone gives me qualms about the merit of my source, in either definition above, I do no wish to belong to the ding dang club. Consider this my concession speech. Ringy dingy right.