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What Seeing the News Is Like as Someone Who Is Both 'Woke' and Anxious

It is the year 2018.

There are no limits on what you can know. All the tape has been removed, the locks unlocked, the chains cut and the vault opened. Information is no longer hidden away behind political jargon, or bad commercials. Anyone can capture or find information at any time. We live in a day and age where if you wanna raise alpacas on a farm in Montana and sell high-end socks, you can. Why? Not because it’s your life’s ambition but because there is a probably a YouTube video with instructions on how and a Ted X Talk on the seven steps to be happy while doing it.

Really want to know what’s in your McNuggets? Want to know who shot JFK? Want to watch civil unrest in Libya? Want to start a movement? Enjoy watching puppies and kittens sleep all day? Curious to understand the implications of systemic racism and patriarchy? No problem, Google it, watch it on CNN or Fox or nine times out of 10 it’ll show up on your Twitter, Instagram or Facebook feed.

These examples may seem random, but these are things people are seriously curious about. Subjects traditionally considered controversial such as racism, climate change, abortion, gay marriage, religion, police brutality, etc. have and continue to be unearthed and have led to an explosion of progressive thought and collective awareness on issues concerning social, environmental and racial justice. This heightened sense of consciousness or “wokeness” about social issues has filled people with the fire to follow their passions, fight for those less privileged and resist unhealthy traditions and norms.

This “wokeness” thrusts the injustices we have normalized and ignored into people’s faces and forces them to hold themselves accountable for their actions. This is a good thing. This has brought about a new level of consciousness for the newer generations and greater unity. Unfortunately, for those who struggle with mental health, this newfound “wokeness” can be overwhelming and at times, damn near debilitating. Not that we do not want to know the truth or are unbelieving of the facts, but as someone with a mental illness, the reality of the world can be especially excruciating.

Many of the videos shown and stories written can be triggers for those who may already be plagued with the idea that they shouldn’t exist. People tend to justify certain events as “that’s just life.” Well, I know life can be hard for everyone but there is nothing normal about watching videos of people being killed by bombs, militarized police killing unarmed citizens, seeing animals with no habitat, vicious bullying, etc. Yes, bad things will always happen in the world and we have to deal with it, but the sheer blatancy of it all can nurture the worst in mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.

As a person of color who struggles with anxiety, seeing unarmed black bodies be murdered on every new release of police camera footage like a trailer for “The Avengers” creates a deeper sense of hopelessness and anger on top of an already anxious mind. As a woman, witnessing the almost endless list of men such as Donovan McNabb, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Russell Simmons, former Senator Al Franken, etc. be accused of varying degrees of sexual assault by both men and women is unbelievably unsettling. It forces us to think about just how normalized rape culture is especially within male-dominated spaces.

These examples I have noted are in no way a criticism of men or law enforcement but an observation of my own feelings when things of that nature occur. I am not advocating that people live entirely with their heads in the sand because the times are too important and too trying to be willfully ignorant. The truth does not always feel liberating, sometimes it can make you feel heavy and isolated. Yet, amazingly, that same truth can spur momentum in the right direction, so we have to face it.

However, whether the cause or passion be racial justice, the environment, education, poverty, female empowerment, etc. if mental health is something you struggle with especially, be cognizant of how much you expose yourself to the sometimes tragic and deplorable aspects of fighting for what you believe in. Fighting to reveal the bad, can at times be welcomed by the worst in us.

Keep fighting. Stay woke. Take care of yourself.


Getty Images photo via nortonrsx