Movies

Film: A Recipe to Helping my Mental Health (An Open Letter)

Let me start by saying that when I refer to my ‘anxiety’ I am not openly discussing my fears or what puts me on edge. I’m not talking about the typical anxiousness that can occur in normal everyday life, but I am addressing how harmful anxiety is to one’s well being.

While I’ve been skeptical about being open about my own struggle, I wanted to write this following the news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s passing following battles with mental illness, with the hope that more people open up about the dangers of dealing with anxiety or depression quietly.

I’ve noticed a big change in myself in the past three years. I’ve become, in some ways secluded. A closed-book. Physically weak. I’m not going to get into how or what triggered said mental health down roll spiral (that’s a whole different story), but in a generation where social media continues to flourish and brainwash us, I feel somewhat shit about myself (not all the time I should point out). If you don’t know me, I’m shy as anything. I’m very insecure as an individual. Most mornings I wake up with anxiety. A rush of voices saying ‘what am I doing wrong?’ My heart races to a point I get mild to extreme chest pains because of the stress I put myself under.

People who do know me have most likely noticed a change in the way I act when I am having an off day: I don’t speak much, out of the blue crying, I don’t really eat, shortness of breath, restlessness, questioning everything, panic attacks and paranoia.

You’re probably wondering how film fits into my mental health. You see, I’ve always been a film fanatic (geeking out about new releases etc.) but it wasn’t until a few years ago when I began to go to the cinema solo that I realized how secure my mental health became. In a way it allowed me to be in control of my emotions and forget about the basis my worries. Even if it was just for a few hours, that short amount of time enabled me to be in good spirits, in contrast to feeling low in myself.

The first film I plucked up the courage to see alone was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016). I had just transferred universities and was in a peak period in my life where I was struggling emotionally. I ended up seeing the film six times in the cinema and I wouldn’t have changed that. It offered me escapism – something that I feel like I needed in ordered to feel calm and make sure my head is in the right state of mind.

I guess I’m writing this because I want to credit the film industry for something that isn’t as superficial as making money from a big blockbuster. I want to say thank you to the many directors and actors who put in the work to create pieces of art that offer those struggling a chance to escape the hard times for just a small amount of time. That time is precious. I owe a lot to cinemas and the many films I’ve laughed or had mini-cries at.

Anxiety can feel like a never ending cycle. When it hits, for me personally it feels like a sunken feeling in my chest – like I’m in the early stages of drowning. It’s overwhelming and at times hard to deal with. But when you find your knack of calming yourself down, you’ll find some sort of peace.

So my advice if you feeling like your anxiety is eating you alive: Take yourself to the cinema or put a DVD on. Find something relatable or funny to watch. And let your thoughts do their own thing for a few hours.

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