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The TV Series That Captures My Experiences with Anxiety

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I usually write about my experiences with chronic illness, but I also struggle with anxiety in my daily life. I often have trouble explaining what my constant anxiety feels like, but I discovered a television series, of all things, that lets viewers inside the mind of its anxious protagonist.

The series is called “Offspring” and follows the misadventures of OB-GYN Nina Proudman and her eccentric family. You probably have not seen the show, since it is Australian. The first five seasons are on Netflix, though, which is how I discovered it. The sixth season aired this year and should be on site soon, and the seventh is slated to air in Australia in 2017.

The show uses storytelling devices including a heavy dose of magical realism. For the most part, we only see what Nina sees, and we hear her thoughts as narration. We also see her dreams, fantasies, and worries play out on screen.

When I first started watching, it actually made me feel uncomfortable. I realized Nina, like me, envisions every possible scenario. She plans, she worries, she talks to herself. She tries her best to keep everything together while dealing with intense emotions.

We see Nina go through everything from personal loss to work drama to family issues, all through the lens of a highly anxious person. We hear the voice in her head as she second guesses herself and worries about things that are often beyond her control.

To a viewer who does not experience high levels of anxiety, Nina’s worrying may seem over-the-top. The fantasy sequences in which we see the worst-case scenario in Nina’s head played out on screen are obviously dramatized, sometimes for comedic effect.

The show is a comedy, and I do find myself laughing at some of Nina’s more ridiculous fears, but more often I relate to what she is feeling. Even though I may not have experienced the exact dilemma she is facing in a given episode, I see my own anxieties and insecurities mirrored in her response to her stressful life.

What really cements the show as one of my favorites, though, is not the fact that Nina is anxious. It is that she is, at the same time, fearless. It may seem like a contradiction, but the show runners have a created a character able to overcome her anxieties and live a full life.

She takes risks (even if she overthinks them first), she puts herself out there. She is fully present in her life and in the world, even when her anxiety might cause her to want to hide inside instead.

Nina is not presented as a “basket case.” She is a strong woman, balancing a successful career, complicated love life, and dramatic family, along with her anxiety.

This is not always the case with anxious characters in TV shows. Nina is fully functional despite her anxiety, rather than debilitated by it. By allowing her anxiety to be seen and heard on the show, it normalizes generalized anxiety disorder in a way rarely seen on-screen.

As someone dealing with anxiety along with all the usual facets of life, it is refreshing to watch “Offspring” and see Nina in a similar struggle. Even though she is fictional and all the way in Australia, watching a character like her stay afloat despite her personal struggles is inspiring. I can’t wait to see the seventh season.

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Photo via Offspring on Ten Facebook

Originally published: February 9, 2017
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