Over the years my anxiety has manifested itself in a lot of different ways. There was the phase when I was a little kid and was afraid of flushing the toilet. There was the phase when I lived alone and thought endlessly about how I might die in my sleep, and no one would ever find me until weeks later.
These days it exists as a sort of dull, ever-looming thing that feels like there’s something you were supposed to remember to do but there’s no hope in remembering what it is. Like Neville with the Rememberall™️.
To distract myself from life’s responsibilities, I’m that friend that will always suggest we go see the latest chapter of a gory horror flick. It almost always gets met with very intense “Hell no” that’s almost insulting.
I like going to the movies by myself anyways.
When I tell people that horror movies calm me, they look at me very confused and a little bit disgusted. Or even worse, they think it’s one of those “I’m just so weird and quirky” anecdotes that you say to create some intricate persona for yourself. It’s a rough life, really.
But really, few things bring more joy than a genuinely terrifying and well-thought-out storyline.
A few weeks ago, I was browsing Netflix and stumbled upon the movie Creep, and it’s successor, Creep 2 (99 & 100% on Rotten Tomatoes respectively! Very respectable stats). They quickly became two of the best and scariest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Equal parts hilarious and horrifying. No monsters or supernatural stuff, just ordinary people in very bizarre situations. It reminded me something.
Being scared by something that isn’t real is FUN. I guess you could call it cheap thrills. That’s how I feel about horror movies. A quick scare is very exhilarating and one of the best forms of therapy I’ve experienced. And the perfect distraction from everyday life. I noticed this obsession with mystery and darkness early on when I would Google crime stories and read about famous serial killers much to the dismay of my teachers and family members.
The first movie I remember truly terrifying me was The Blair Witch Project. Which, thanks to their unbelievable, ahead of its time marketing campaign, had me convinced the events were real. Which equal parts terrified and excited me. As I got older and my anxiety progressed, the things I thought to be scary in my childhood became way less frightening than dealing with real life.
Weirdly, horror stories make me feel more in control. Even more so if I can relate to the protagonist. It helps me to plan and take precautions against being kidnapped. And I know exactly what not to do if I suspect one of my friends is possessed by a demon. Y’know… very practical life advice.
Being perpetually anxious also means hat means that regular things terrify me way more than things that are supposed to scare me. Scary movies are a type of exposure therapy to the inevitably horrific things that you will probably (hopefully) never experience in your life.
Because let’s me real, the idea that someone is going to kidnap me or I’m going to experience paranormal activity is way scarier than that meeting I have to run tomorrow and takes my mind off of the horror of that the stupid thing I said at happy hour yesterday.
Real life is way scarier. If I can focus on something that isn’t my life (or the world, or politics) it clears my head of intrusive thoughts.
People love to say:
“But Sarah, you should meditate to clear your mind of negative thoughts.”
My response: Have you ever had anxiety? Quiet time does not turn off my brain. Nor will the slow-talking man in the Headspace app.
It’s hard to be depressed or anxious about work or life or health insurance while watching someone get sawed in half. Work, school, love, etc, don’t matter when you’re watching someone’s throat being slit.
It’s the only fool-proof method to clear my head of whatever struggles I’m dealing with at the time. It hyper-focuses my anxiety on a singular thing. It’s all about the distraction. It gives me something to think about for a few days, offering a very brief escape.
There are plenty of ways to cope, from meditation to medication. And you should seek necessary medical attention if anxiety takes over your life, but horror movies are a harmless vice to distract you from the real demons in your mind.